Have You Met Nine?
With Nine comes a bit of calm. Nine is when you get to see a slower, more focused, independent child. Nine has developed some maturity and parents enjoy this. Nine is able to recognize basic social norms and appropriate behaviors, in themselves and others. They are quick to catch their parents making mistake! Nine has learned emotion regulation skills, and are better able to control their anger and frustration most of the time; the mood swings are less frequent now than with Eight.
Nine has become more self-motivated and determined to accomplish tasks in their own way and may pull away from adult caregivers. Nine is moving happily toward independence, which is often hard on parents who are not quite ready for Nine to grow up so fast. As Nine pulls away from the adults in their life, they move toward stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships as their primary means of support. You can support Nine through this change by talking to them about their friends, accomplishments, and what challenges they might face. Helping them talk through their emotions during this time is invaluable. If you haven’t started, setting up regular “coffee dates” or “talking walks” lets Nine know you are available and have time carved out for them when they are troubled.
Nine is curious about relationships, particularly between boys and girls, though will never admit to this interest! Instead they will continue insisting that they are “grossed out” by the opposite sex or the notion of “romantic” partnerships. Peer play groups are often segregated by gender, by choice. Nine may experience more peer pressure at this time, and same-sex friendships become emotionally important to navigate problematic peer relationships. Because Nine has gained a strong sense of empathy, they able to see the point of view of others more clearly than in previous years. Nine has a tendency to perceive the world as unfair. Though this can be frustrating for parents, it is important to remember that Nine’s perception is their reality. Parents can help with efforts to make things as fair as possible, particularly in group situations with siblings or peers. This is the time parents can mirror calm emotional discussions and remind Nine about their ability to self-soothe.
Nine is facing more academic challenges at school, and is able to accomplish the increasingly
complex tasks and projects assigned, such as math homework or book reports. Nine will enjoy reading, comprehending and challenging themselves with more complicated books. Help them to find specific topics that peak their curiosity to learn more. The “magical thinking” of younger years tends to disappear by Nine, causing Nine’s viewpoint of the world to be more realistic. Parents often are both relieved and unsettled by Nine’s change in worldview. Explaining things to Nine in logical terms will appeal to their concrete way of thinking. Nine may ask “Hey Mom, why can’t people just get along?” Your explanation could be “people struggle to get along with others not like them, because listening is hard sometimes,” can help to show Nine how to use their empathy and practice their communication skills. Nine is able to apply simple logic, draw conclusions, and reason with a rational way. Homework struggles may increase as they are tired after using their brains all day. Letting Nine take a break from school before starting homework will likely decrease tensions at home.
As Nine is starting to think more independently, their ability to have increased attention
for task completion allows for improved decision-making skills. Nine is more flexible about changes in routine, but still seeks organization and planning. Having a calendar in their room so they can plan ahead and look forward to events with friends, vacations is something Nine might enjoy. Nine’s increased perseverance in accomplishing tasks and doing things “right,” often leads to somatic complaints when a task proves too challenging. For example, if Nine is struggling with practicing an instrument or sport, she may complain of physical aches and pains in an effort to avoid feelings of failure. Complaints of physical symptoms should not be taken lightly or ignored, as it is often a clue that the child’s is experiencing an emotional response to the task. You can help Nine by consistently encouraging their efforts to try new things and master tasks. Work to not praise the results but rather the efforts made to get there. Nine may also relieve tensions by fidgeting: twisting hair, biting nails, picking at nail beds, pursing lips, or biting tongue. Parents often see their Nine frequently demonstrating these anxious behaviors and/or frantically worrying. This can feel distressing for a parent as Nine pulls away from the adult caregivers in favor of peer support. However, it is typical at this stage of Nine’s childhood to be balancing between pulling inward and outwardly expressing their emotions, and it may be helpful to remember that this developmental period is fleeting and typically passes with time. Support and maintenance of your relationship with them is important. Remember, just being with them, beside them, present in their space can be the door to dialogue starting.
Nine’s body is growing too. Nine may develop concerns for their body image and eating habits around this time as they become more aware of their body and puberty approaches. Encouraging healthy eating and exercise as a part of taking care of themselves, helps them to develop these concrete skills now. Nine can mark the beginning stages of puberty, which can cause hormonal swings to their mood and behavior. It is not uncommon for Nine to begin menstruation. It is common for Nine to seek out information regarding sexuality and sex from books, the media, and same-sex peers. Parents this is your opening to talk about sex and expectations of ways to ensure body safety, including what to do if someone has touched them inappropriately. Nine is seeking information to better understand their changing body and hormonal changes they are experiencing. So take this time and TALK to them. Nine will remain self-conscious about exposing their bodies, and will have a desire for more privacy at this time- encourage prosocial ways to ask for this privacy.
Nine is better coordinated and more willing to push their physical limits than in years prior. Nine shows a greater interest in performing and mastering fine motor skills; such as writing in cursive, copying words from the board at school, cutting, drawing, painting, making jewelry, or building models. Active play is crucial for Nine. Their body is growing rapidly and gaining muscle tone. Active play includes: bike-riding, climbing, swimming, jumping rope, running games like “tag,” and roughhousing. Rough-and-tumble play is beneficial to Nine’s overall physical development, as well as the child’s emotional regulation and social interactions. Nine’s active or roughhousing play can benefit from parental guidance, rather than suppression of that type of play. For example “Make sure you are listening to the other, for signs you have gone to far, like the word ‘stop’ or ‘no’, so you can show respect toward your friend.” Nine is a good time to introduce team sports, as the organization of the game can allow Nine to participate and also satisfy their needs for competition and mastery. Nine’s interest in sports will vary, usually heavily weighed by peer participation. Allowing Nine to participate in active play will help them understand what their bodies are capable of, supporting the development of a positive body image. Nine is forgiving, and cares deeply about feeling connected to the people in their life. It is hard for parents when Nine begins to pull away in favor of more independence and stronger peer relationships. It is important for parents and caregivers to remember that all relationships have occasional episodes of falling-out but focusing on the rupture is not nearly important as focusing on the repair. Nine is likely to respond positively to efforts for relationship repairs, but it is not very likely that they will initiate it on their own. Nine needs as much parental support and connection as they did in years past, even if they don’t show it as often. Nine is the start toward launching themselves to tween-dom. Parents can help them to recognize their strengths and develop skills in their challenging areas. Nine is really looking at their parents to be role models as they figure out this more “real” world they are entering. Enjoy NINE!
Adapted from D. Ray (2016).
It's Time for Nine pdf here
Challenges of Nine pdf here