Elementary Ages 10 – 12
As a young toddler, your child probably played alone or next to one or two other children, but not in an interactive manner. As your child develops and grows, they will begin to play with children their own age in a more cooperative way. They will begin to have friends that they enjoy playing with on a regular basis, and who they trust. As your child grows, these relationships may come and go and become more personal.
During this phase your child will develop a better understanding of right and wrong as well as morals. This is aided by consistent age appropriate discipline and modeling by parents and role models. It is important to encourage children to help out around the house with age appropriate chores.
This is a normal occurrence among young children. Even though your child has an imaginary friend it does not mean that they are lonely or need more real friends. It could merely mean that they have an active imagination and enjoy having a playmate that only plays with them. Keep your eyes open for signs of loneliness, but try not to make a mountain out of an ant hill.
During the later elementary years, it will be normal for your child to play outside with neighbors and independently in their room. Of course, this depends on the safety of your neighborhood, but encourage these neighbor relationships, and set boundaries such as not going past a certain house, as well as time limits such as checking in every hour or half hour while it is still light out. If possible, check up on them, but let them know that you trust them. Make sure you know where they are and who they are with at all times. At this age, children should not be left home alone even for short periods of time, but should always have an adult supervisor.
Each group of children at school and in other regular meeting areas develop a “hierarchy” of who is “in” and who’s not. Children tend to put a lot of stock in what other children say. All they really want is to fit in and they may go to great lengths to gain peer approval. It is important to keep your eye open for signs of low self-esteem, and to be familiar with your child’s friends. If they are rarely invited to birthday parties, and tend to play by themselves, it may be that they are shy, or it may be that they are not as popular. If this is the case, encourage them to continue to try, but also find other groups that they can be a part of, such as a sports team, or local club. Find what they are interested and invest some time to develop that interest. And above all, make sure that they are praised and encouraged at home, so that they know their value and worth does not come from what their peers think.