by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
Young children tend to go through phases that last about 6 months. For 6 months, things seem consistent, kids are mostly agreeable, and there is a natural ease to behavior and play. During this phase, kids enjoy safety, security, playing, and the simple comfort of their everyday routine.
The next 6 months have more struggle as kids challenge the status quo, assert themselves in new ways, experience more powerful emotions, and try out new, sometimes challenging, behaviors. During this phase, children find their voice, build strength, identify their limits, take risks, think for themselves, and round out other elements of their individuality. Though developmentally normal, the drama-filled phase can feel like a train crashing into the easygoing times we’ve come to count on from our kids.
An awareness of the 6 month phases can help us avoid feeling blindsided, angry, or frustrated by the sudden, out-of-nowhere changes in our kids’ behavior. It can help us to react to the shifts with more patience and compassion.
Of course, not all phases are exactly 6 months. Some might be shorter, others longer. Some kids’ temperaments may be so easygoing that we barely notice the difference, whereas strong-willed kids can seem like whole new people.
As we tune in, we develop awareness of other natural rhythms (not just the 6 month ones). We notice the rhythm of the day – where the morning is filled with activity, excitement, and learning and the early afternoon is filled with cuddling, napping, or reading. We notice that sometimes our kids can’t wait to try a new activity like hockey class and other times they want nothing to do with something new.
There’s an ebb and flow to all life. The ebb is a time of retreat, of refining what we’ve already learned, of resting, of relaxing into the comfort of the known. The flow is a time of fierce learning, testing, trying, and adventuring. Noticing and appreciating the beautiful rhythms of children can help us be more understanding of all of their behaviors.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, mom to three, is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples in Chicago’s western suburbs. She specializes in counseling for parents of babies and young children. www.erinleyba.com or firstname.lastname@example.org To follow this blog by e mail, click the follow button on the left.