Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The transition from child to adolesence

My little baby is growing up right before my eyes - as the mother of a ten-year old girl I have been so aware this last year of her transition from child to being on the thresh-hold of becoming a young woman - it comes with great joy as I watch her blossom and unfold the beautiful person she is becoming and also with a tinge of sadness in saying goodbye to the innocent days of childhood.

Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, states, "In the ninth year the child really experiences a complete transformation of its being, which indicates an important transformation of its soul-life and its bodily-physical experiences."

Around the age of nine, children seem to leave the magical, imaginative world that they have lived in and "wake up". This happens as their identity and individuality starts to develop – Steiner observed this the “I forces” coming towards the soul.

If you observe you nine year old you may notice some fundamental changes – they may become more self-conscious, begin to form one on one friendships as opposed to playing in a larger group, become aware about being different to others, and may become more critical of their parents (especially the mother!) – there can be a lot of questioning and even a sense of lonliness.

Another inner process that can happen at this age is that they have an experience of their own mortality – now it may not be expressed in this clearly defined way – but you may find your child around 9 has an experience of death or illness that makes them aware of this part of life for the first time in a conscious way. For instance, they may have a dangerous fall when bushwalking and say to you: Mummy, I could have died.

I also noticed an interesting change in play – although my daughter still does continue with some imaginary play – she is beginning to collect things:

these little Japanese Momiji dolls

suncatchers, and “useful but weird objects – a box full of bottle tops, feathers, paper clips and all manner of bits and pieces.” Here I sense a search within her to “define” herself – to explore her own personality, likes and dislikes and what makes her different from someone else.

It's a good time to begin after school activities - learning an instrument, art-classes, girl guides, sports etc. Often society pushes us from a very young age to do this, but the younger child needs time and space to explore the world and develop their own imagination, while the older child needs to explore their emerging individuality and their new found talents.

It is a beautiful time to watch your child emerge from the cocoon of childhood and spread their wings and explore who they are becoming. And it is a journey of trust, as a parent, to allow them to become who they truly are and not impose upon them who we are or think they should be…

Some additional information can be found here.

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