Age seven is a special year with a great deal of cognitive and emotional growth squeezed in between preschool and middle school. As seven-year-olds change and mature, they need us to continue to guide them on matters related to school, friends, and family even though they start to appear much more independent.
The Excitement of Cognitive Changes
Sevens have new ways of thinking that they couldn't have mastered just a year before.
• Sevens think more logically.
• Sevens think more realistically.
• Sevens are clear on the difference between real and pretend.
• Sevens classify and categorize everything in sight from baseball cards, to doll clothes, to pebbles on the beach.
• Sevens understand symbols so their math and reading skills begin to grow much faster than before.
• Sevens understand memorizing and can amass a great deal of information.
Sevens Understand Emotions More Fully than Ever Before.
• Sevens express their feelings and are interested in others emotions.
• Sevens are able to prioritize what they think is important.
• Sevens have a great deal of excitement about learning as their curiosity blossoms.
• Sevens make good friends and like sharing interests and learning from each other.
The Shift to their Eighth Year
As they approach their eighth birthday because of the ability to see similarities and differences, late sevens begin to compare themselves to others. Sometimes this competitiveness takes the earlier fun out of learning because they worry about how they measure up.
This is where our parenting skills come in. As they begin to see themselves more realistically with strengths and weaknesses, their self-esteem becomes more vulnerable. They need us to help them enjoy what they love to do and learn without succumbing to a beginning pressure on grades and testing.
If they are to retain their younger value of learning for it's own sake and to continue to enjoy new ideas and activities to pursue with unbridled pleasure, they need us to keep admiring their excitement for discovery. In order to tackle new learning with pleasure rather than to start hunting for a competitive edge, they need to hear our praise about their specific efforts and persistence in taking on new challenges.
We can't underestimate the importance and complexity of the seven-year-old's social life. Many children with great cognitive abilities are socially unsure or shy. Walking into a new classroom, deciding where to sit at lunch, and choosing who to play with at recess are other challenges sevens face.
We can guide them to learn to listen to other children when they want to make friends and how to understand the beginning social hierarchies. They need to feel we are on their side and ready to hear all their triumphs as well as worries.
Here are a few social hints we can give them:
• Ask a potentially new friend what they would like to do and join in doing their thing before also asking them to become involved in your interests
• Listen to your friend about her worries and difficult situations and offer to help
• When you want to get to know someone remember to say "hi" with a smile and invite them to play.
• Don't talk about kids behind their backs. It's important for kids to know they can trust you.
Kids become socialized when they have warm, supportive relationships with their parents that lead them to be open to advice, to know they can discuss their worries and fears, and trust in the parent-child bond.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a recent book that helps parents understand social behaviors in their kids: Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are found.