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Posts Tagged ‘Age Appropriate’

According to Experts, This Is How Old a Kid Should Be Before Crossing the Street Alone

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In parenting, there is so much information, but so little consensus. Still, whether you helicopter or free range, install blackout shades or blow through naps, serve vegan grain bowls or Coco Krispies, it’s the rare parent who doesn’t adhere to at least some of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines (and by “adhere,” we mean have a passing awareness of them so we know when to feel extra guilty).

And now, in addition to advising us on when we should introduce solids and how many hours of sleep kids need, we’ve learned the AAP has thoughts on how old our kids should be before they try out some independence, like walking to school on their own or even crossing the street solo.

Their conclusion? Age ten at the earliest.

This information comes via a fascinating Wall Street Journal article called “The Overprotected American Child.” The gist, per author Andrea Petersen: “Overzealous parenting can do real harm. Psychologists and educators see it as one factor fueling a surge in the number of children and young adults being diagnosed with anxiety disorders.” The real heartbreaker? “For children who are already anxious, overprotecting them can make it worse. ‘It reinforces to the child that there is something they should be scared of and the world is a dangerous place and I can’t do that for myself,’ says Rebecca Rialon Berry, a clinical psychologist at the NYU Langone Child Study Center.” The antidote, say the experts? More autonomy.

And, to that end, it turns out crossing the street without an adult’s help is a major milestone marker. Still, when it comes to the maturity, danger awareness and traffic savvy it takes to navigate a crosswalk, researchers caution that even some ten-year-olds may not be up to the task.

“Research has found that young children walking to school often don’t look for traffic or stop at the curb before stepping into the street,” writes Petersen. She cites the AAP’s policy statement that parents “are likely to overestimate their children’s ability to safely cross the street.”

Bottom line? You know your kid best. After studying a range of age groups, the AAP concluded: “Development of pedestrian skills was highly variable such that a few of the 5-year-olds did better than some 11-year-olds on the overall pedestrian skills score.” So guidelines aside, it’s still a parent’s job to figure out where on the capability continuum their child sits (or rather, walks).

 

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Common Preschool Halloween Mistakes

As a child psychiatrist, school consultant, father and grandfather, I’ve seen a lot of All Hallows’ Eve’s involving preschool children – more unsuccessful than not. I’ve come to the conclusion that successful Halloween experiences contain the same traits: the children are old enough, the celebration is short, too much candy is avoided and it isn’t scary.

Parents intend to delight – and delight in – their preschool child’s playful participation in this fall ritual. But less is more when it comes to keeping a preschooler comfortable and entertained. Here are some guidelines:

Age

Halloween is really meant for school-age kids and adults who have no trouble telling fantasy from reality and whom are way past being afraid of the dark and of scary masks. The preschooler is less likely to laugh and more likely to anxiously ask the mask-wearer a question – cute, but neither funny nor entertaining.

Length

Tying Halloween into dinner plans often stretches the evening out beyond your preschooler’s stamina, making all the other strange stuff inherent to the event harder to manage and understand. Plan to stick to your routine, and celebrate well before bedtime so your preschooler has a chance to settle down.

Sweets

Candy is the antithesis of your normal bedtime snack, giving your child a sugar rush. So, keep them away from the candy bowl. You may want to reconsider having them stay home to ‘help hand out the treats,’ tempting though it may be to have them ‘safe’ with you at your own front door.

Scariness

Because the preschool mind is just mastering the difference between reality and fantasy, things that slip back and forth over the edge of that distinction – like Halloween itself – aren’t very comfortable training grounds for this kind of learning. Older children can see the joy in being scared because they understand the difference. A preschooler is not quite ready for this kind of ‘fun.’

For your young ones, then, I suggest you make it a dress-up party without the gore, leave the trick or treating to the grade school professionals, check your favorite parents magazine/Web site for some simple games to play with peers and get them to bed at a reasonable time. Giving them and yourself a few more years to get ready for the delightful weirdness will be deeply appreciated by them and you.