Another change that is likely VERY apparent in your 6-12 year old is their complete lack of order. G was a toddler who used to freak out if the forks in the cutlery drawer weren’t in their section and aligned exactly alike. For the last year, guess where she puts her fork? She has no idea. It could be in her dish in the sink, on the table, even on a shelf if the fancy strikes her.
The thing is, there’s so much going on in her head (and any other 6-12 year old child’s), that they no longer care about organizing the world around them – they’re too busy filing those thoughts in instead.
This is a lovely thing, because they’re thinking with more depth and complexity than they ever could have before. It makes for some fascinating conversations, which I quite welcome after years of ‘Let’s play I Spy again.’ But. The mess, the ditziness, the effort it takes to get them to gather all that they need for an exercise, not to mention clean up afterwards! It really doesn’t help that with online classes on, they need to hustle at least once a day. Incidentally, this is also why they can’t seem to be bothered with their physical hygiene any more. The tussles to comb, brush, bathe are all very normal, as are their excuses for doing the shoddiest job possible with each.
My sanity savers:
They’re not out to get you, or doing it to see how far you can be pushed. They cannot help that their priorities have shifted, just like they couldn’t help their inherent need for order when they were younger. What really helps is having catch phrases for the things you seem to repeat on loop, so that you can literally repeat it without bothering to think too much.
Some of mine are: ‘G, glasses.’ ‘Sink, please.’ ‘Comb, now.’ The fewer the words, the more robotic your delivery, the less your emotions have a chance to boil over. At some point, it actually gets funny. There are times when these have become songs, and others when I hold up placards because I can’t even be bothered saying them again).
I’ve realized I need to tell G one thing at a time, and wait till it’s done before moving on to the next. It’s baffling, because she is so intelligent, but there you go.
When your toddler needed regulation in their earliest days, you simplified their options, right? You gave them fewer things so they could clean up themselves. You presented binary options (this or that). You made decisions for them when needed. Your 6-12 year old may need similar simplification of their external belongings while they get used to all the awesomeness that’s going on inside their heads.
I once locked up all the rooms in our house, and gave G access to only 3 books/toys, until she could show me she could put them back where they belonged. This was not a punishment by any means – it was just a way in which we could make both our lives easier. The key to this plane of development is reminding them that freedom comes with limits. Pencil box constantly missing things, right before online class starts? Ok, take care of one pencil with an eraser at the back. Which brings us to point 4…
Children really need us to have a place for everything, and stick to it. The more we clutter our spaces, the harder it is for them to know where to find what + the more license they have to put things wherever they want too. It also helps to have a dedicate time/times of day when things are put back in their places, no matter what. If necessary, create a tray for work in progress, but WIP goes in there rather than all over the floor. Don’t be afraid to micromanage, or worry that they should be doing all of this independently by now.
Given their developmental stage, they will need constant reminders, and more supervision than you’ve had to provide in years. All the physical mess is in service of magnificent mental work going on. If they need more help with the day-to-day meanwhile, so be it.
The most important sanity saver deserves a whole post of its own. One of the most fascinating facets of this age group is their capacity for reasoning. If you can engage them in logical discussions for wanting things a certain way, and come to a consensus together, life suddenly becomes much easier. More on this soon.