At different points in our lives we meet with something new - a shift in the way we view our world and ourselves in it. These shifts in consciousness/inner development generally are noted every 7 years but in the first 14 years there are a few extra. Knowing these is a gift to parents and teachers. The shift this article will provide some insight on is the 9-10 year shift or 'change' as it is often called. Rudolf Steiner's work in this area is phenomenal.
9-10 is a powerful time of inner transformation in your child's life. You may see some signs of the inner work and the outward struggle to come into and move through this change. Many people talk about this time as having the intensity of emergence from a cocoon. The last moments of struggle just before a butterfly emerges from his/her cocoon are chaotic and intense. The pressing and pushing and struggle is necessary to pump the fluids into the wings and complete the maturation and allow it the ability to emerge with wings that can fly.
Children are leaving the imagination rich world of early childhood as they start to develop a new relationship to their inner and outer worlds. It's almost like someone put a new pair of glasses on them without them knowing and they are trying to grow into this new way of seeing and being and feeling. Children can do things very out of character at this time and this can unnecessarily worry parents who aren't aware of what's happening on the inside of their growing bambino! This can be a challenging time for children - take what fits from this understanding Steiner gave us to guide/inform your way and your parenting at this time.(-:
We can offer gifts to our children when we have the knowledge of their inner and outer development. At this time, one big gift is listening without fixing. Being present without distraction. Listening some more. Remembering they are 9, 10 … not older. Be there.
I found it interesting to learn that this is the most common time that a child will insist that they are adopted, or will try to runaway. Behind this is a realization for the first time that their thoughts are not their parents thoughts - that they have their own thoughts - childhood and the dreams and carefreeness is going as they step into a new space of independence and feeling of responsibility for their life. At a deep level that is not intellectually understandable to them a knowing is emerging in them that they are alone in the world. There can be at some level a hopelessness and outwardly there may be lots of complaint and criticism - of themselves and others ... they start to see our imperfections and question our place as the all knowing parent (Darn it all) and Santa Claus's existence … Sigh. Darn it all. (-:
Be compassionate - big shifts are happening internally and they didn't see this coming.
What we can do to honour and support this time
1. Your child needs you to be the adult - hold the safe space but don't get in there too much - it is their journey and even though at times something seems wrong - really wrong, breathe and remind yourself where they are at - in the middle of a big change in their footing and orientation to the world and themselves . Keeping in mind that this is just a phase - an essential one - they are going through and they will be better for it - helps.
It's not easy (for me) to listen to my kids woes without trying to fix but that is exactly what is called for. My daughter will be 9 in 3 months and I can see some changes stirring. The other day she said to me, "I'm so angry lately mama, I don't know why." I take a breath, wanting to get into the how, why and what to do but instead (this time) manage to create space and allowing and just be there without the fixing. "Hmm, sometimes we don't know why." Emotions can come up strongly as they navigate this inner shift. Stay close. Offer loving attention. The inner confidence that comes out the other end is beautiful - I have seen this with my oldest. Trust this.
2. Waldorf educator and dad Jack Petrash talked about how this is the time when the children jump the fence at school - the school yard fence that they have walked inside for years at lunch hour. They are more aware of the outer world and their place in it.
It is important to create opportunities and challenges and mini rites of passage in safe ways so they can feel what they are made of, start to know their own strength and courage. PS They will create their own rites/challenges if you don't.
I spoke to a friend the other day and she talked about how her child was insisting on walking all the way to to the skateboard park alone … she was surprised - its a long way and he's never wanted to do the things he's asking to do now … I hear this all the time from parents with children around this time as they wonder, "Can they do this/that alone yet? Should I let them?" We, of course, can do what we can to have the adventures/rites of passages they create for themselves to be safe with perhaps check-in times/phones/friends but we let them take in a new level of independence … we give them more space.
3. We can learn from the curriculum in Waldorf schools which were founded by Rudolf Steiner on how to meet this inner change as well. This inner sense of being alone in the world is met in the curriculum with tools to feel confident in this - gardening is woven into the curriculum at this time (I can feed myself!) and the building of a house/building (I can shelter myself!), geography comes in at this time (a yearning of wanting to know what's out there - a curiosity ...). These outer life skills meet the inner shift with an "I CAN DO THIS!" Love it.
I experienced the coolness of this first through a friend's child many years ago. I was visiting my girlfriend at the Duncan Waldorf School whose daughter was in grade 3 at the time. In the house that 9 year old came that day skipping - FULL of joy and confidence. With a knowing aire she said quite emphatically, "Mom, I really need to pay attention at this school ... we're learning such important things." She was so excited - they were hammering on the roof that day on the structure they were building as a class and working in the garden as part of their day's schoolwork. That feeling of a curriculum meeting a child so deeply really stuck with me. My daughter attends the Waldorf inspired school here in the Bow Valley. She loves the gardening and even though she's not building yet she has taken it on her own to create a fort in the empty lot across from the house - she is very proud of it - it's "her" place. Oh how our children want to meet their inner stirrings and know what they are made of … we can keep this in mind when bringing experiences to them at this time and also watch as they find creative ways to find their place and create their own rite of passage ...
Learning about this and the other development changes and consciousness shifts my children move through as they grow has helped me in many simple and profound ways ... I love having this deeper understanding ...
When my son was approaching 10 we had just moved. I was thrilled that we now lived a 10 minute walk from my son's school and scheduled my life so I could walk with him to school. As he gets older and is an avid(understatement) reader I really cherish our out and about connection time - just me and him walking together. His love language is so clearly touch and as we walk together he would slip his hand in my pocket if my hand was in there or link his arm in mine - when we walk he talks so freely. Heaven on earth to me.
"I want to walk alone to school," he said one morning. Breathe Monika. "Oh, OK, sure" I said. I knew right away he needed to find ways to step into his independence, to stretch himself. (Now I'm not going to pretend I wasn't bummed - I was ... definitely ... my baby boy is growing up!) I did feel some sadness absolutely but understanding what he needed to do from a soul and developmental perspective was very helpful in understanding the bigger picture of my role in his life at this time and allowed me to a little more gracefully than I might have give him space.
I also remember years ago just after learning about the 9-10 year change being at the park at the end of our street and there being a boy there hanging out with his friends. We got to talking and he told me and the other adults there that he just turned 10. "That's a big thing" I said aloud without thinking. Afterwards he came up to me and said, "You know you are right. It is a big thing. I know this sounds strange but I do feel different being ten." "I understand." I said. He just smiled and nodded before heading on his way with his friends ...
I can't end this blog without sharing this poem from Billy Collins that the late Virginia Smith, Master Waldorf teacher and beloved mentor of mine, shared with us at a Teacher Training. It gives a glimpse into the feeling of this milestone and transformative time ... here it is ...
On Turning Ten by Billy Collins
"The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light-
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that it is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk thought the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed."
OK, it's intense right. The last lines give me goosebumps every time.
The take home here is that it's kind of a big deal for them and there's part of this transition that (as you can get from the poem) can feel sad/disorientating. They really are leaving that time of imaginative magic, believing and innocence. You understanding (without saying a whole lot) I think really helps to hold the space in a loving way especially if they seem to be having a hard time at first adjusting to this inner shift.
My hope is there this article helps you be there for your child during this exciting transition!
Let me know what you discover. xo Dr. Monika