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May 1 2019

Stages of Development of Children

A Guide to Developmental Considerations at Various Ages and Stages of Development of Children.

Within each age and stage of development children are working to learn developmental tasks. Major changes in the child’s life or environment can impact the child’s ability to master new developmental tasks. Each child is unique and all children do not progress at the same rate.

For example, some six-year-old children progress quickly and do what might be typical of an eight- year-old child, while other six-year-old children progress more slowly and do what might be typical of a five-year-old child. Over the next several weeks, these blog posts should provide a list of developmental considerations that are likely to be important in creating a parenting time schedule.

Birth to Nine Months

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Making their needs known through crying or other signals.

  • Establishing a sense of trust in the people who care for them.

  • Learning to differentiate between important caregivers.

  • Between 6 to 8 months, beginning to develop attachments to their caregivers. Becoming comfortable with other people who interact with them.

  • At about 6 months, becoming uneasy around people the infant does not know.

  • Becoming comfortable with their surroundings.

  • Beginning to comfort themselves and establish patterns of sleeping and feeding.

  • Infants do not have an ability to remember things they cannot see, including a parent who is not present.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Infants need their caregivers, surroundings, and routines to be predictable and responsive to their needs.

  • Infants are totally dependent on their caregivers to meet their needs.

  • Infants become attached to parents and others through consistent and loving responses to their needs, such as holding, playing, feeding, soothing, and talking gently and lovingly. Infants are sensitive to changes within each home and between homes.

  • Infants do best when there is minimal disruption to their routine.

  • Infants need their surroundings to be places of minimal stress.

  • Infants exposed to anger, violence, and patterns of harsh tones of voice directed at them or others become stressed.

  • Infants have an emotional memory for things that are frightening to them such as anger, violence, and harsh sounding voices.

  • Frequency of parenting time is more important than length of parenting time

  • Infants may show signs of stress while adjusting to a new caregiver

Nine to Eighteen Months

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Continuing development of attachment relationships to caregivers.

  • Continuing to develop trust in others.

  • Developing motor skills (crawling, standing, walking, drinking from a cup, using a spoon). Exploring their surroundings through touch and taste.

  • Continuing to develop internal patterns of waking, eating, and sleeping.

  • Continuing to develop the ability to comfort themselves.

  • Developing language from sounds to words.

  • Developing ability to remember things they cannot see, including a parent who is not present. Showing signs of separation anxiety when separating from either parent or other important caregiver.

  • Becoming upset during transitions from one parent to the other.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Children need their caregivers, surroundings, and routines to be predictable and responsive to their needs.

  • Children become attached to parents and others through consistent and loving responses to their needs, such as holding, playing, feeding, soothing, and talking gently and lovingly. Children are sensitive to changes within each home and between homes.

  • Children do best when there is minimal disruption to their routine.

  • Children need their surroundings to be places of minimal stress. Children exposed to anger, violence, and patterns of harsh tones of voice directed at them or others become stressed. Children have an emotional memory for things that are frightening to them such as anger, violence, and harsh sounding voices.

  • Frequency of parenting time is more important than length of parenting time.

  • Separation anxiety is normal while transitioning from caregivers and it does not necessarily mean there is a problem in either household.

  • Long separations from either parent may stress the child’s attachment relationship with that parent.

  • Children may show signs of stress while adjusting to new caregiver

Eighteen to Twenty Four Months

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Create a safe physical environment in each home such as using baby gates, child locks, electrical outlet covers, and properly securing guns and other dangerous items.

  • Developing motor skills (running, jumping, climbing).

  • Developing language from words to two-word to three-word sentences.

  • Engaging in imaginative and pretend play.

  • Continuing to explore their surroundings through touch and taste.

  • Continuing to develop the ability to comfort themselves and self-control.

  • Continuing to develop internal patterns of waking, eating, and sleeping.

  • Increasing ability to remember things they cannot see, including a parent who is not present. Decreasing signs of separation anxiety when separating from either parent or other important caregiver.

  • Becoming upset during transitions from one parent to the other.

  • Beginning to develop confidence in self.

  • Increasing desire to do more for self, such as wanting to use a spoon or dress themselves. Understanding simple one-step instructions.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Child’s relationship with parents and others is supported through consistent, predictable, loving responses and prompt attention to their needs.

  • Children need their caregivers, surroundings, and routines to be predictable and responsive to their needs.

  • Children are sensitive to changes within each home and between homes.

  • Children do best when there is minimal disruption to their routine.

  • Children need their surroundings to be places of minimal stress. Children exposed to anger, violence, and patterns of harsh words and voices directed at them or others become stressed. Frequency of parenting time is more important than length of parenting time.

  • Long separations from either parent may stress the child’s attachment relationship with that parent.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may become difficult for some children at this age, and they may become upset. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

  • Infants may show signs of stress while adjusting to new caregiver.

Eighteen to Twenty Four Months

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Create a safe physical environment in each home such as using baby gates, child locks, electrical outlet covers, and properly securing guns and other dangerous items.

  • Developing motor skills (running, jumping, climbing).

  • Developing language from words to two-word to three-word sentences.

  • Engaging in imaginative and pretend play.

  • Continuing to explore their surroundings through touch and taste.

  • Continuing to develop the ability to comfort themselves and self-control.

  • Continuing to develop internal patterns of waking, eating, and sleeping.

  • Increasing ability to remember things they cannot see, including a parent who is not present. Decreasing signs of separation anxiety when separating from either parent or other important caregiver.

  • Becoming upset during transitions from one parent to the other.

  • Beginning to develop confidence in self.

  • Increasing desire to do more for self, such as wanting to use a spoon or dress themselves. Understanding simple one-step instructions.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Child’s relationship with parents and others is supported through consistent, predictable, loving responses and prompt attention to their needs.

  • Children need their caregivers, surroundings, and routines to be predictable and responsive to their needs.

  • Children are sensitive to changes within each home and between homes.

  • Children do best when there is minimal disruption to their routine.

  • Children need their surroundings to be places of minimal stress. Children exposed to anger, violence, and patterns of harsh words and voices directed at them or others become stressed. Frequency of parenting time is more important than length of parenting time.

  • Long separations from either parent may stress the child’s attachment relationship with that parent.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may become difficult for some children at this age, and they may become upset. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

  • Infants may show signs of stress while adjusting to new caregiver.

Two to Three Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  •  Developing fine motor skills (drawing, coloring, using scissors).

  • Increasing gross motor skills and coordination (throwing and kicking a ball).

  • Developing language to four- to six-word sentences.

  • Exploring the world through play.

  • Developing self-control, such as calming themselves when upset.

  • Continuing to develop a sense of independence, which may include saying “no” or not cooperating.

  • Increasing desire to do more for self, such as wanting to use a fork or wanting to pick out what to wear.

  • Understanding simple two-step directions.

  • Engaging in imaginative and pretend play.

  • Expressing feelings in a physical way such through tantrums.

  • Wanting to control their world or environment, which may be seen as resistance to all change including transitions between parents.

  • Beginning potty training.

  • Continuing to use parents and other important caregivers to help manage their emotions and stress, and to help them increase their comfort with new experiences.

  • Learning rules, limits, and boundaries set by caregivers.

  • Tolerating longer separations from each parent.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Children need patient, consistent, loving, and supportive care by creating an environment with clear structure and consistent, predictable routines.

  • Children benefit from reminders that the other parent has not disappeared, will return, and continues to love them.

  • When stressed, children may return to using behaviors from an earlier age or be unable to learn new skills. For example, a child who recently learned to walk begins crawling again, or a child who is toilet trained begins having accidents.

  • Major changes in the child’s life or environment can impact the child’s readiness for and success at learning potty training.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some children at this age, and they may become upset. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

  • Frequency of parenting time continues to be important.

Three to Six Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Using play to explore feelings, ideas, and interests.

  • Learning to manage feelings.

  • Expressing feelings in a physical way such as hitting, biting, and throwing things.

  • Being fearful about new experiences, such as the start of school.

  • Having difficulty managing fears, such as monsters under the bed.

  • Being curious, observant, and asking questions, such as “why.”

  • Imitating their parents and other important people in their lives.

  • Beginning to develop relationships with other children.

  • Developing a sense of right and wrong and the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie.

  • Beginning to understand other people’s feelings.

  • Beginning to learn reading, writing, and math.

  • Tending to be literal in their thinking, such as a child saying “I was home alone,” when the child was alone in a room while the parent was in another part of the home.

  • Beginning to understand time concepts, and using words like “hour,” “day,” or “week” without knowing what they mean.

  • Saying what they believe each parent wants to hear.

  • Stating preferences without understanding the meaning or impact. For example, a child may say they want more time with one parent without understanding that will result in less time with the other parent.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Children need patient, consistent, loving and supportive care by creating an environment with clear structure and consistent, predictable routines.

  • Some children will do better with longer blocks of parenting time and fewer transitions, while other children will do better with shorter blocks of time and more frequent transitions. When stressed, child may return to using behaviors from an earlier age or be unable to learn new skills. For example, a child who is toilet trained begins having accidents.

  • Children at older end of this age group may say what they believe each parent wants to hear and may be saying something different to each parent.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some children at this age, and they may become upset. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

Six to Ten Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Learning and school become the central focus of their day.

  • Increasing importance of relationships with other children.

  • Expanding their experiences outside of the family, such as playing sports or going to camp. Developing a sense of what they enjoy and what they are good at.

  • Understanding and following rules.

  • Increasing ability to manage different rules and parenting styles in each parent’s home. Expressing preferences and advocating for themselves.

  • Beginning to develop a sense of personal responsibility, such as organizing their backpack. Using play and games to explore feelings, ideas, and interests

  • Continuing to learn to manage feelings, fears, and anxieties.

  • Expanding their understanding of other people’s feelings.

  • Imitating their parents and other important people in their lives.

  • Saying what they believe each parent wants to hear.

  • Tending to be concrete in their thinking, such as a six year old child saying “I was home alone,” when the child was alone in a room while the parent was in another part of the home. Understanding of time concepts such as “hour,” “day,” or “week” becomes more reliable. Stating preferences without understanding the meaning or impact. For example, a child may say they want more time with one parent without understanding that will result in less time with the other parent.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Children need patient, consistent, loving and supportive care by creating an environment with clear structure and consistent, predictable routines.

  • Some children will do better with longer blocks of parenting time and fewer transitions, while other children will do better with shorter blocks of time and more frequent transitions. When stressed, child may return to using behaviors from an earlier age or be unable to learn new skills. For example, a child who is toilet trained begins having accidents.

  • Children may say what they believe each parent wants to hear and may be saying something different to each parent.

  • Some children may express a preference to spend longer periods of time with each parent and to have fewer transitions between their parents’ homes, while others may express a preference for greater flexibility and more frequent transitions.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some children and they may become upset. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

Ten to Thirteen Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Increasing desire for independence and beginning to shift primary focus from family to friends, sports, and other interests.

  • Increasing importance of social activities and acceptance by other children.

  • Increasing ability to think logically, express opinions and preferences, and argue their viewpoint.

  • Increasing capacity to understand time and to make future plans, including a parenting time schedule they have not yet experienced.

  • Experiencing hormonal changes and mood shifts associated with puberty.

  • Continuing to learn to manage feelings, fears, and anxieties.

  • Continuing to expand their understanding of other people’s feelings.

  • Some children may start to use abstract thinking, such as being concerned about the “fairness” of the schedule for either parent.

  • Stating preferences without understanding the impact. For example, a child may request a specific parenting time schedule without understanding the impact on their access to friends and activities.

  • Continuing to develop a sense of what they enjoy and what they are good at.

  • Understanding different parenting styles and following different rules in each parent’s home. Beginning to challenge rules.

  • Developing a sense of personal responsibility, such as completing and handing in their homework.

  • May begin experimenting with risky behaviors such as using alcohol and drugs, and breaking rules.

  • Adjusting to the demands of middle school may be stressful to the child.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • The child may feel the need to choose sides, especially if there is a lot of conflict between parents.

  • The child may want to have a say in creating the parenting time schedule, such as how often the child goes between homes.

  • The child may request a temporary adjustment in the parenting time schedule because of activities and events. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent is undermining the parent-child relationship, but indicates the child’s wish to have more input in the decisions that are made about them.

  • Recognize that parents may differ in their expectations about the balance between family time and time the child spends with friends and in activities.

  • Understand the demands of middle school/junior high may be stressful to the child.

  • The child may begin to spend more time at home alone, such as before or after school. Children continue to need patient, consistent, loving and supportive care.

  • Children have an increasing ability to be flexible with routines.

  • Some children may do better with or express a preference for longer blocks of parenting time and fewer transitions.

  • Children may say what they believe each parent wants to hear and may be saying something different to each parent.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some children and they may become resistant. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

Thirteen to Fifteen Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Increasing sense of independence with more focus on friends, activities, and other interests, while continuing to need family support and guidance.

  • Experiencing changing emotions and mood shifts associated with hormonal changes resulting from puberty.

  • Increasing ability to think logically, express opinions and preferences, and argue their viewpoint.

  • Developing their own values and morals.

  • Continuing to challenge rules.

  • Continuing to develop decision making and problem solving skills.

  • Continuing to expand ability to understand others’ perspectives, but are still self-focused. Increasing influence of friends on beliefs and behaviors in both helpful and harmful ways. Developing an interest in romantic relationships.

  • Experimenting with risky behavior such as using alcohol and drugs, sexual activity, and breaking rules.

  • Understanding different parenting styles and following different rules in each parent’s home. Increasing sense of personal responsibility, such as coming home from a friend’s house when they are supposed to.

  • Adjusting to the demands of middle school/high school may be stressful to the child.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • The teen may want to have a say in creating the parenting time schedule, such as how often the teen goes between homes.

  • The teen may request flexibility in the parenting time schedule because of activities and events.

  • Listen to the child’s wishes about the parenting time schedule, while letting the teen know the parents will decide.

  • If a teen resists following the parenting time schedule, both parents need to let the teen know they expect the teen to follow the schedule.

  • The teen may feel the need to choose sides, especially if there is a lot of conflict between parents.

  • Teens may say what they believe each parent wants to hear and may be saying something different to each parent.

  • The teen may request flexibility in the parenting time schedule because of activities and events. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent is undermining the parent-child relationship, but indicates the teen’s wish to have more input in the decisions that are made about them.

  • Recognize that parents may differ in their expectations about the balance between family time and time the teen spends with friends and in activities.

  • Understand the demands of middle school/high school may be stressful to the teen.

  • Be alert to signs the teen may be engaging in risky behavior.

  • Teens continue to need patient, consistent, loving and supportive care.

  • Some teens may do better with or express a preference for longer blocks of parenting time and fewer transitions.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some teens and they may become resistant. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the teen doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

  • Understand that the teen sees the time as “their” time not the parent’s parenting time.

Fifteen to Eighteen Years

Child’s Developmental Considerations

  • Increasing sense of independence with more focus on friends, activities, and other interests, while continuing to need family support and guidance.

  • Experiencing changing emotions and mood shifts associated with hormonal changes resulting from puberty.

  • Continuing to develop their own values and morals.

  • Expanding ability to understand others’ perspectives and feelings.

  • Continuing to develop an interest in romantic relationships.

  • Increasing influence of friends on beliefs and behaviors in both helpful and harmful ways. Continuing to develop decision making and problem solving skills.

  • Increasing ability to think logically, express opinions and preferences, and argue their viewpoint.

  • Continuing to challenge rules.

  • Increasing sense of personal responsibility, such as getting to jobs on time.

  • Understanding different parenting styles and following different rules in each parent’s home. Adjusting to the demands of high school and planning for life after high school may be stressful to the teen.

  • May be learning to drive a car.

  • May be experimenting with risky behaviors such as using alcohol and drugs, sexual activity, and breaking rules.

Parenting Time Considerations

  • Parents should understand that the brain is not fully developed until a person is in their 20s. Teens may sound mature and logical, but that may not be reflected in their behavior or decision making.

  • The teen will want to have a say in developing or revisiting the parenting time schedule, such as how often the teen goes between homes.

  • Consider increased flexibility in developing and revisiting the parenting time schedule based on the teen’s school, activities, social relationships and jobs.

  • Teens may spend less time with each parent because of their work, activities, and social life. Listen to the teen’s wishes about the parenting time schedule, while letting the teen know the parents will decide.

  • If a teen resists following the parenting time schedule, both parents need to let the teen know they expect the teen to follow the schedule.

  • The teen may feel the need to choose sides, especially if there is a lot of conflict between parents.

  • The teen may request flexibility in the parenting time schedule because of activities and events. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent is undermining the parent-child relationship, but indicates the teen’s wish to have more input in the decisions that are made about them.

  • Recognize that parents may differ in their expectations about the balance between family time and time the teen spends with friends, at work, and in activities.

  • Understand the demands of high school and planning for life after high school may be stressful to the teen.

  • Teens continue to need patient, consistent, loving and supportive care.

  • Some teens may do better with or express a preference for longer blocks of parenting time and fewer transitions.

  • Some teens may say what they believe each parent wants to hear and may be saying something different to each parent.

  • Moving between parents’ homes may be difficult for some teens and they may become resistant. This does not necessarily mean that the other parent isn’t a good parent or that the teen doesn’t want to be with the other parent.

  • Understand that the teen sees the time as “their” time, not the parent’s parenting time.

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