The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that middle childhood is the period of time between 9 and 11 years of age. As your child transitions into the later grade school years and into the new and often disorienting middle school setting, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website, she may begin to face an array of academic and social problems that are common to kids in this age group.
Later elementary and middle school are times when school work and grades take on an increased level of importance. Additionally, the amount of time that your child must devote to studying and doing homework will also grow; as the AAP notes, one in every five 4th-graders spends roughly two hours on homework each night while one in every three middle schoolers spends two hours. The importance and amount of schoolwork in the middle childhood years can cause problems for all students. A formerly relaxed student may suddenly feel an increased pressure or stress to do well. This may lead to anxiety surrounding school or a negative self-concept. For example, your middle schooler may think that he's not as smart as his friends just because he got a "B" in biology and the other kids are talking about their "A's."
Motivation and Independence
Independence is a key feature of the later elementary and pre-teen years. Instead of relying on you for everything, your child is starting to branch out on her own and take responsibility for herself. According to the AAP, the middle school transition often means that children must go from a more supportive grade school environment to a less helpful setting. Instead of having one teacher who acts as a cheerleader, the older student in middle childhood may now have several teachers who expect the students to be self-motivated. While this doesn't mean that teachers are totally hands-off, an unmotivated student may suffer negative consequences such as poor grades.
The middle childhood years usher in a new type of social scene in which cliques rule and being popular is cool. According to the pediatric experts at the KidsHealth website, cliques -- or groups of peers held together by their own sets of rules or social guidelines -- are common during the late elementary and pre-teen years. During this time, cliques can make your child feel rejected or engage in unacceptable behaviors. Cliques may use peer pressure to elicit certain behaviors-- such as dressing a certain way or "going steady" with a member of the opposite sex -- from members or perspective members. Parents can help to mitigate these problems by talking to their middle schoolers about cliques and peer pressure. Discuss your own experiences, let your child know that saying "no" isn't uncool and that his true friends won't ask him to do anything that makes him uncomfortable.
While you might associate puberty with the teen years, it can actually start at some point during middle childhood. According to the AAP's Healthy Children website, puberty begins between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 14 for boys. While puberty in itself isn't a problem, when a child begins to develop the outward signs or adult-like characteristics -- such as a young girl developing breasts -- issues can arise. The AAP notes that roughly 1 in every 160 children begin puberty early, most with no medical cause. Kids in the middle childhood stage who begin puberty early may feel uneasy about their growing bodies or experience unhappiness due to a negative self-image. Discussing the changes of puberty with your child and helping her to understand that everyone goes through this stage -- just at somewhat different times -- can help her to feel better about her body and her development.