How can I reduce the pressure on my child to act older?

Michele Borba

Let’s face it, the culture is pushing our kids to grow up faster and they do act older than their actual age. Puberty is starting earlier and kids do look more mature. But “looking and acting” grown-up doesn’t mean your child is developmentally ready to handle that fast-forward world. Here are actions to take: Set your rules and expectations based on your child’s actual chronological age. Tailor your decisions on what is developmentally appropriate to your child’s current emotional, cognitive and physical stage. (Check child development guides) Lay down certain “Rites of Passage” or ages your child can go to her first sleepover, use the computer alone, obtain a cell phone, see a PG movie, shave her legs, wear makeup, pierce her ears so she has something to look forward to. Utilize the suggested age guidelines for games, toys, sports equipment and books. Use the age rating system for video games, movies, CDs, television shows. Recognize that panels of credentialed child development experts spend hours reviewing each product before providing posted guidelines. When in doubt, listen to those CD lyrics. Play the video game first. Watch the movie. Take control of what your child is watching and listening to! Make your rules set your values as well as normal childhood development and based on your child’s actual “chronological age,” not “physical appearance.” Lead your child toward age-appropriate and healthy hobbies and interests. Think swimming, horseback riding, theatre, soccer, knitting, band, scouting, 4H Clubs, and church groups that focus on healthy outlets that are developmentally suitable. Do a quick “healthy media test”: Walk around your home and pick up the magazine your daughter is most likely to read. Flip it to a few pages. Would those images nurture or hinder her self-esteem? If “hinder” is your answer, then it’s time to alter that subscription. Let’s face it—kids are exposed to more grown up issues at far younger ages. Studies show that drinking, sexual promiscuity, engaging in oral sex, depression, eating disorders, stress, peer pressure, puberty, and even acne are all hitting our kids three to four years earlier than when we were growing up. So don’t deny your child’s fast-forward culture and wait to discuss those “grown up” subjects you planned for the teen years. If you’re not talking about these tougher issues believe me your child’s friends most likely are.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.