An independent JrK-12 college preparatory school 
located in Concord, North Carolina

Cannon's School Counselors Share Insight for Parents at Every Grade Level

Cannon's School Counseling Program is led by Jennifer Calvert, Megan Thompson, and Anne Hoffman. Each member of this dynamic trio has taken a unique path to focus her education and her career on counseling the specific age group about which she is so passionate. Below you will find guidance related to each age group they serve, along with recommended resources to help you guide your student along their journey. We hope you find this information helpful, and when in doubt, consult with your counselor.

The Lower School Years

Mrs. Calvert, Cannon's lower school counselor, recently celebrated her twenty forth-year anniversary at Cannon. She advises, “Emotional health takes practice, and I preach that all the time. Parents and children don’t come with manuals, and sometimes we need to be taught strategies to pursue and practice emotional health, which is just as important as academic success. And, each stage of development has its own joys as well as challenges.”

The Lower School years are ones of rapid growth and development. Each new birthday brings tremendous change. Typical challenges and characterics of children between the ages of five and eight are described below.

List of 6 items.

  • Five-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Poor group members
    • Demanding
    • Hit and push
    While five-year-olds might experience the challenges above in their relationships with their peers, they do enjoy group activities, show increased cooperativeness in their play, and are more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others around them.

    Fives enjoy planning projects in detail and are generally patient and enthusiastic about completing the work, even if the activity extends over several days. It becomes important to complete work that has begun. Five-year-olds also enjoy testing their muscular strength and motor skills. However, it is best if they compete with themselves as they are not yet ready for competitive contests. Losing can be a real blow.
  • Six-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Asserting independence
    • Boss and quarrel with siblings
    • Fearful of things like death, monsters, ghosts, witches, or things under the bed
    At school, six-year-olds can exercise their own choice of friends. This is an important time in developing relationships outside the family, but friends are usually fleeting. In the classroom, six-year-olds learn about life in a group and how to relate to different types of people.

    Parents should provide their six-year-olds with encouragement, praise, supervision with minimum interference, and help in developing acceptable manners and habits. Sixes need plentiful opportunities for activities of many kinds, especially using their large muscles. Concrete learning situations with active, direct participation are essential. Give six-year-olds some responsibilities, but without pressures or rigidly set standards.
  • Seven-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Moody
    • Worries are exacerbated by TV, movies, and some books
    • Not good at admitting wrong-doing
    Sevens are sensitive to the feelings and attitudes of both children and adults. They can be moody and feel that people are picking on them, sometimes saying, “Nobody loves me.”

    They might worry about everything from not being liked, to being late for school, or being afraid of the dark. And when they engage in boasting behavior, this reflects their emotional need to be strong.

    At school, sevens might try to test their teachers with attention-getting behavior. They may be full of energy sometimes, but then tire easily and become restless and fidgety. Parents should try to provide their seven-year-olds with the right combination of independence and support.
  • Eight-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Often careless, noisy, and argumentative
    • Sensitive to criticism
    • Overestimate ability to meet challenges
    While eight-year-olds might struggle with the challenges above, they are also alert, friendly, and interested in people. They are still searching for that best friend, but they can hold onto friends longer than at six or seven.

    By eight years-old, attention spans are getting longer. Eights finds new challenges exciting, but they may overestimate their ability to meet these challenges. They recognize their mistakes and may be self-disparaging, sometimes saying, “I never do anything right.” Eights need protection from both trying to do too much and from excessive self-criticism when they fail. They also require adult-supervised groups, planned after-school activities, and exercise.
  • Nine-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Begin to pull away from parents
    • Perfectionists
    • Upset by failure
    Nine-year-olds are independent and pursue their own interests, and with guidance, they will assume leadership responsibilities. They can be perfectionists but lose interest or cry easily when they feel discouraged or pressured. While they are often out-spoken and critical of adults, they are still dependent upon adult approval. Nine-year-olds begin to reach out beyond their immediate environments to understand other lands, people, and events.

    Nines need to be part of a family group that accepts them, helps them keep their feelings within bounds, lets them make decisions within limits, and provides guidance when they try to do more than they can. They also need to learn how to accept people who are different and how rules help us live together., and exercise.
  • Ten-Year-Olds

    Challenges:
    • Awkward and restless due to rapid, uneven growth
    • Uncooperative
    • Wide range of individual difference in maturity levels
    By ten years-old, children are more poised, relaxed, and congenial. Tens enjoy creative companionship with their parents, and although they are inwardly pleased with praise from adults, they often shy away from demonstrations of affection.

    Ten-year-olds are intense and highly selective in their friendships. The opinions of their social groups are of paramount importance, and they accept the standards, attitudes, and values of the group as their own. This is a time of uneven growth of different parts of the body, and boys and girls are maturing at different rates.

    Parents should provide their tens with help thinking through their problems, understanding their physical and emotional changes, and talking about the values and standards they consider important, particularly their moral standards.

The Middle School Years

Mrs. Thompson, who has served as Cannon’s middle school counselor for ten years, explained, “My job is to keep a pulse on the student body. Don’t be afraid to open up. We’re not going to judge.”

Middle school can be one of the most challenging times in your children’s lives as this period is filled with so many different and overwhelming changes that they need to learn to navigate. Not only are middle school children entering into puberty, where they are faced with changing bodies and fluctuating hormones, but they are also entering into a stage where they are very self-conscious, feeling as though everyone is looking at them. On top of these changes, many adolescents are fiercely trying to assert their independence from mom and dad, all while trying to fit in and not be different from their peers.

One of the major developmental milestones for adolescent students is the push for more independence and autonomy. As teens begin to find ways to assert their independence, parents and children may begin to butt heads. It is important to know that it is normal for children to find ways to “be their own person,” and they need to learn from their experiences—and often times mistakes. Without experiencing mistakes, children will not learn how to best handle situations, how to make positive choices, and how to move forward in the most productive way possible.

As parents, the most important thing we can do during adolescence is to love our children unconditionally and continue to support them. By continuing to be their parents, not their friends, and providing safe limits while allowing them to assert their independence (much like I am experiencing now with my two-year-old!), your children will know that they can come to you when they really need you. By listening without judgment and offering advice when asked, you can help your children navigate the ups and downs of Middle School.

The Upper School Years

Mrs. Hoffman has served as the upper school counselor for ten years. When considering how to best support your children’s emotional and social growth, she advises, the essential parenting question is, “When am I doing too much for them, and when am I not doing enough?” We want our children to know they have our unconditional love (we can love them without loving their behavior!), and we want to honor who our children are and our relationships with them. Understanding them is a good place to start.

One of her favorite books on understanding adolescents is 7 Things Your Teenager Won’t Tell You: And How to Talk About Them Anyway. The authors advise having three general rules: Stay Safe, Stay in Touch, and Show Respect (to yourself and others). Discussing rules with teens ahead of time and allowing them to help determine consequences aids them in understanding family expectations and opens the lines of communication. With developments in understanding the brain, we now know that the frontal cortex, or decision-making part, does not fully develop until around ages 21 to 24. This can explain teens’ impulsiveness and help us understand their inability to look at long-term consequences and their tendency towards risky behavior.

Developmentally for adolescents, taking risks gives them power. Allow them to have power in choices and take safe “risks” like going out for a new sport, auditioning for a play, or trying the latest fashion fad. If they take more serious risks like driving without a license or drinking at a friend’s house, try not to underreact or overreact. Many parents have found that immediate, short-term natural consequences are the most effective and least damaging to their relationships with their children. It’s not about trying to control them; it’s about helping them understand that choices have consequences.

For upper school children, “Trust but Verify” is important to remember. You want to trust that when they say their friend’s parents will be home, that they will be. But trusting without verifying could lead your children into precarious social situations (like an unexpected house party). So you follow up with the friend’s parents even if your children swear they will die of embarrassment. Being known as firm, or even strict, can offer your teens an easy out with their peers. Research affirms again and again that the number one reason most teens don’t engage in risky behaviors is, “because my parents would disapprove.” Although teens want to fit in with their peers, they still care more about pleasing their parents than their friends.

Recommended Books

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Cannon School

Phone: 704-786-8171 | Fax: 704-788-7779