Birthdays are absolutely celebratory times – whether you’re turning one-years-old or 90 years young. But when I talk to parents whose children seem to have changed overnight – whose behaviors have regressed, whose melt-downs have increased, whose cooperation has disappeared – I find that these children are usually in their half year or very close to it.
No surprise there! For it is during this time when children are in a state of disequilibrium – betwixt and between. The four- and- a- half-year-old going toward five does not smoothly transition to his fifth year. If you picture a conformation of building blocks – four blocks, one on top of the other, it would make sense to expect the fifth block to take its rightful place. No such luck! In order for the child to fully come into equilibrium once more, things crash, fall apart, scatter – during this half-year milestone – and then regroup in a totally new conformation. It is during this disequilibrium that a child often displays some new and challenging behavior.
If you have a child approaching their half-way point, take notice. If you’ve already noticed and are wondering, “What’s happened to my child?” , breathe a sigh of relief. She is doing what’s she’s supposed to be doing – right on schedule.
So does that mean we just accept this misbehavior because they’re two- and- a- half, or four- and- a- half or five -and- a -half? Not at all! Consistent expectations are still appropriate and should continue. But understanding the developmental process, what is going on within your child – why she’s so clingy or anxious or easily upset – can help us have more acceptance and less fear – that we, as parents, have made some huge mistake. Once we’re “off the hook”, it’s easier for us to have a more helpful, positive response!
I can’t help but think that a child, in the throes of a mid-year “crisis” – whose behavior is troublesome to us – must also be feeling very unsettled himself. So, in addition to expecting this child to follow family standards, try to throw in a little humor, a bit more one-on-one attention, an extra dose of patience and compassion, a recognition and focus on all the POSITIVE things your child is also doing and a surprise hug or two. Then, take some deep breaths, find some occasional respite time for yourselves and celebrate this important milestone. Your child is on his way!
( Helpful reading are the series of books by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg , Your One-Year-Old; Your Two-Year-Old; etc all the way to your fourteen- year- old.They are available at Family Resources for check-out and all bookstores. )