Middle Childhood (7-10 years old)
Middle childhood is an exciting period of physical development.
Children in this stage of development are full of energy! Outings with your mentee should include physical activity whenever possible, such as playing a sport, swimming, bike riding, hiking, or just taking a walk and talking with each other—activities that allow mentees to burn up some of their energy.
Girls mature physically faster than boys during this stage and some may enter puberty. For a nine- or ten-year-old girl, the onset of puberty can be very difficult. She may begin to receive more attention from older boys, and some people may mistake her for being older than she is. This can result in adults having unrealistic expectations of a young person.
Youth develop strength, balance, and coordination during middle childhood. But this rapid growth can cause some to feel clumsy or uncoordinated. While many youth prefer to be outdoors and active, others may prefer quiet pastimes, such as doing crafts, projects, and service-learning activities. Provide your mentee with plenty of opportunities for active learning. If you are having trouble identifying or accessing such activities, contact your case manager or match support specialist.
During middle childhood, children are concerned with developing a social circle.
For most children, the focus of this stage is making friends and being part of a group. Children begin to feel loyal to a group or club, generally with members of the same sex. They also start to look up to older boys and girls and imitate their behavior. If you are mentoring a group of children, you can use this opportunity to incorporate older mentees into activities.
Between ages 7 and 10, youth are likely to look up to older youth who wield power, even if they do so in a negative way. Don’t criticize your mentee’s choices, but use this as an opportunity to help him understand the difference between using power positively and using it negatively.
It’s especially important that you set a strong example for your mentee. During middle childhood, youth are particularly sensitive to adult feedback and interaction. Take advantage of this by displaying good behavior and promoting your mentee’s accomplishments. Youth in this stage of development need the help of adults to stay focused on tasks and perform their best.
The intellectual development of children at this stage can be characterized by exploration and interest.
At this point, children’s interests change regularly, and they do best when information is presented to them in small pieces. If you are working on a project together, give your mentee directions that are short and simple so she doesn’t become overwhelmed.
Middle childhood is also when abstract thinking begins to develop. Children’s academic abilities, interests, and reasoning skills vary a great deal during this phase, but young people tend to be easily motivated and are usually eager to try new things. Take advantage of this by exploring a wide range of activities with your mentee. If your mentee has become interested in science, go to local library for science activity books to do some simple experiments together. This can help your mentee to identify new strengths and abilities.
You should also realize that for youth who have fallen behind academically, school can be a source of frustration. Help your mentee to identify his areas of strength. Be sensitive to your mentee’s concerns and frustrations about school, and be sure to communicate his feelings to program staff.
Self-confidence can be fragile as youth move through middle childhood.
During this phase, children often compare themselves with their peers. If they feel that they don’t measure up, their self-confidence can falter. Remember to focus on boosting your mentee’s self-confidence through praise and recognition for the good work she does. When giving praise, be sure to commend the effort that your mentee puts into things, as well as the results of her efforts.
Avoid praising your mentee’s physical appearance, as this can send the wrong message. For instance, compliment your mentee for the kindness or empathy he exhibits, rather than for his new shirt or haircut. Emphasize your mentee’s skills or personal qualities, and remind him that this is what makes him an interesting and valuable person. Avoid making comparisons to others. If your mentee compares himself to others, remind him that we’re all different and we all develop at our own pace.
Youth’s emotional state during middle childhood is closely associated with their social development. Your mentee may have a strong desire to belong to something that feels significant. If you meet with your mentee at school or a program site, involve her in group learning activities to help her feel connected.