Eight to nine years is what I consider the age of accountability. Children this age have more responsibilities both at home and school. They develop confidence and a sense of accomplishment as they learn new things, complete homework, and take part in jobs at home. At this age, children really begin to learn the importance of friends and seek the influence of those outside of their home to form opinions and new ideas. Children of this age identify with others of the same gender and often have a “best friend.”
- Car: Use a backed booster in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Important Note: As of 11/2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children stay in the most restrictive seat possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. This replaces any set age for transitioning out of a booster to just the seat belt.
- Your child may be able to transition to the regular seat belt at this age, depending on your child’s size. To use the regular seat of the car, your child should be able to sit upright against the back of the seat and have his/her knees bend over the edge of the seat. Seat belts alone should not be used until the belt fits securely across the child’s hips or thighs; and the belt should not come up on the stomach at all. The shoulder strap should cross at the collarbone, not the face or neck, and should rest across the center of his/her chest. (Note: Do NOT use products that adjust the shoulder strap on a car vehicle.)
- Reinforce stranger safety (e.g., never opening the door to strangers, getting in stranger’s cars).
- Smoking: Make sure your home and cars are smoke-free zones. Also, check smoke alarms to ensure that they work properly, and change batteries annually.
- Water: Teach your child to swim. Do not allow children to swim unattended. Teach your child to put on sunscreen.
- Wear a helmet on all things a kid can ride (e.g., bicycles, scooters, ATVs, as passengers on adult bicycles). Teach your child how to use hand signals in traffic.
- Guns: Guns must be unloaded and locked in a safe. (Disturbing Fact: More children are killed from guns every year than are intruders.)
- Reinforce Home Safety Rules: How to use emergency phone numbers (e.g., 911) and what to do in case of fire. Lock up poisons, matches, and electrical tools.
- Teach safety in sports, including using protective gear (e.g., mouth guards, helmets, knee pads).
- Provide 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day, breakfast is especially important for the school-aged child.
- Limit the number of fats and sweets your child gets in a day. Soft drinks/soda do not belong in a child’s diet.
- Teach your child about the importance of eating a balanced diet. Help your child choose lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and other good sources of protein.
- Dairy products should be low in fat; this includes all milk.
- Eat meals together as a family, and turn OFF the television. Not only does eating together as a family develop good nutritional habits, it also has multiple lasting effects on the social support of a family.
- Model good eating habits.
- Keep in mind that it is very difficult to eat healthy when eating out (especially at fast food restaurants).
- Have your child engage in helping make meals. This is an important time for teaching and learning.
- Continue to brush twice a day (with a fluoridated toothpaste), and floss teeth once a day.
- Schedule an appointment to see a dentist every 6 months.
- Fluoride supplementation depends on the level of fluoride in the drinking water in the city where you live. (Your pediatrician or dentist can prescribe fluoride, if needed.)
- Keep in mind that teeth are replaced in the order that they came in.
- Media Exposure: Limit total media time (e.g., TV, movies, video games) to no more than 2 hours a day, ideally less than 1 hour. Check TV ratings and choose appropriate programs. Watch programs together so you can discuss them.
- Sexual Education: Answer questions at a level appropriate for your child’s understanding. Be direct and honest. You may want to have some age-appropriate sex education books or books about bodies to help answer questions. This is a good age to start having basic conversations about sex. Prepare daughters for menstruation. Puberty is considered normal as early as 9 years old, so make sure your child has heard about it from you first.
- Social Interactions: Praise your child for accomplishments, especially in school. Encourage your child to talk about feelings and experiences at school and with friends. Provide opportunities for your child to interact with other children (e.g., community groups, team sports, and social activities). Ensure that you know your child’s friends and their families.
- Family Interactions: Spend time with your child both individually and together with siblings. Show affection in your family. Acknowledge conflicts between siblings. Come to a resolution without taking sides. Do not tolerate violence. Provide personal space for your child at home.
- Learning Experiences: Encourage reading. Expand your child’s experiences through family trips and outings (e.g., libraries, parks, museums).
- Discipline: Set limits. Be consistent. Ensure your child knows the house rules (e.g., bedtime rules, respect for others). Teach consequences for unacceptable behavior. Set reasonable expectations. Teach how to resolve conflicts and handle anger.
- Chores: Give your child some age-appropriate chores and household responsibilities (e.g., help set the table, keep own room clean, fold/put away laundry). Teach your child responsibility for personal belongings.
- School: Meet with your child’s teacher, become involved with school.