Ready or Not?
● By Style
When is it OK to let Timmy start kindergarten and Susie to swipe on lip gloss?
Folsom’s Mosaic Therapy and Wellness team—Britney Stone, MA, LMFT, and Mandi Baughman, MA, ATR, MFTi (both referenced here as “Mosaic”)—shed light on your child’s critical “firsts.”
Expect biological readiness between 18 months to three years old, depending on one’s physical and developmental factors, as well as familial and cultural approaches. Look for an expression of interest and, recommends Mosaic, an “awareness of biological cues and the ability to get to and from the bathroom.” And treat this time as an opportunity to build your child’s confidence. But, add the therapists, “If you find that your child is becoming angry, defiant, withdrawn or showing other concerning behaviors, step back…[he or she] may be feeling too much pressure and frustration, which can backfire. Also, accidents are normal!” Lovingly normalize these occurrences so as not to shame your child.
Five years old is still considered the norm for entering kindergarten. If unsure about your child’s classroom preparedness, consult with preschool or daycare staff, or mimic a school setting and classroom structure at home to help prepare your little one. “Overall, children in kindergarten should be willing and able to follow instructions, interact with other children, have motor skills to complete classroom activities and possess verbal skills,” explains Mosaic, noting that not all kids accomplish these skills before or during their kindergarten year. “Build socialization and developmental skills through praise, modeling and encouragement.” Conversely, consider waiting if your child displays unsafe or disruptive behaviors, like aggression or excessive tantrumming.
The kindergarten years are not uncommon for a sleepover, but neither is the 8-13 years-old range; it’s somewhat subjective to one’s comfort level. “Sleeping over should require your child to assertively communicate so they can ask an adult to call home, ask for help and demonstrate healthy boundaries for safety reasons,” explains Mosaic, stressing the importance of knowing and trusting other parents. “It is crucial to be aware of who will be supervising the children, what activities will be allowed, etc.” And although children will likely exhibit excitement at the prospect of a sleepover, they may get nervous as the big bunking moment approaches. Do your best to normalize anxious feelings while ensuring the supervisory home is safe.
GETTING A CELL PHONE
Early-age cell phone use is not uncommon, but Mosaic believes in giving kids regular cell phones, not smartphones, to limit Internet use and delay the inevitable distraction of texting, games and social media. “Children should be able to demonstrate responsibility, trust and safety awareness prior to receiving open access to the outside world via a cell phone,” they say. “[We] recommend parents explain to their children from the start that the child’s cell phone belongs to the parent, as well as any texts, posts, Instagrams, etc. Parents should have full reign to monitor children’s cell phone activities until they show responsibility to manage it alone, which in some cases may be well into their late teen years.”
Explore the interest—is it genuine or influenced by an airbrushed photo of their favorite celebrity modeling an unrealistic portrayal of perfection? When your child asks to wear cosmetics, Mosaic suggests taking the opportunity to learn more about your child’s world, including useful tidbits about her self-image and worries. Don’t ask intruding questions, but rather “carefully explore motives.” Then ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the timing and reasoning.
STAYING HOME ALONE
Maturity, trustworthiness and problem solving skills are solid determinates for brief periods of autonomy. But, notes Mosaic, “We recommend delaying this task as late as possible. Studies show parental supervision is key in safeguarding children and teens from many risk factors and behavioral problems.” Assess your child’s comfort level, consider safety and take in the variables: how long will the child be alone, are they responsible for caring for siblings, is there a trustworthy neighbor next door, etc.
Mosaic advises parents take the same stance with computers as they do cell phones: “It is the property of the parent. With this understanding from the start, children will be less likely to explore unsafe sites and inappropriate materials.” They do not recommend computers or iPads be left in children’s rooms unsupervised and suggest subscribing to a content monitoring service to prohibit access to inappropriate material.
LEARNING TO DRIVE
Discuss risks involved with driving before your teen gets behind the wheel. And because teens are more likely to establish their beliefs about driving from their parents before their first lesson, “Model good driving skills and explain why you keep a distance in front of you and your phone in the trunk,” Mosaic explains. Also, look for a good attitude about driving and safety. “Children who tend to be more impulsive and reckless may need additional time. Watch for an awareness of the fragility of life and the potential impact they make with their decisions on the road.”