Independence: Tips for Parents of Young Children
The increasing independence among
school-aged children is a difficult issue for some parents, and may
raise concerns such as the real or perceived safety of the neighborhood.
However, the major developmental task at this age is the beginning
of independent lives, as children spend more time away from home and
establish stronger peer relationships. In addition, rules become very
important to children in kindergarten and first grade, who often will
spend time during recess working out the rules of the games they play.
Focus groups with teenagers stressed the importance of beginning parent/child
communication about peer relationships well before adolescence; this
age is the perfect time to begin these discussions.
Communication is the central theme in this brochure. This is an opportunity
for clinicians to model healthy communication by asking questions
about the child's life and engaging the child as much as possible
during the examination. It also reinforces the importance of appropriate
routines and limits. The section "Teach Simple Rules About Safety
With Adults" raises the issue of sexual abuse prevention. In addition,
as children begin to explore new friendships, parents are given tips
on how to help their child understand situations of conflict or unhappiness.
How to Use This Tool
- Help parents understand that independence begins with small
steps at a young age.
This is a time when parents' fears about children's safety in
the outside world come to the forefront. Use this as an opportunity
to address these fears. Some of these fears may be based on the
reality of the neighborhood they live in, but others may reflect
current media coverage rather than the true situation in their
own immediate environment.
- Ask how the child is doing in school or preschool, with specific
attention to social, behavioral, or emotional issues.
- Use the history and physical as an opportunity to model communication
with the child.
Many clinicians find that a discussion about child sexual abuse
is most naturally conducted during or after the examination of
the child's genitals. For example, you might ask, "What would
you do if someone else who wasn't a doctor wanted to look at you
here? What would you say?" It is important to reinforce to
children that no one, other than a doctor or nurse (with their
parents) should look at their genitals, and that adults never
need help with their genitals.
- Let the child know that secrets are not okay. "I'm here with
your mother so it's okay. No adult should ever tell you to keep
a secret from your parents. Is that a rule in your family?"
This also provides a clinical opportunity to talk with the parents
about those behaviors of which a child needs to be aware.
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