Looking back at the first ten years of life

Dear Teens,

I have a written a new blog to help you realize how far you have already come. I hope you’ll enjoy this writing.

Before we jump into the second decade of life, it is important for you to note what you have already accomplished. It is quite a lot. We don’t really think of what we learned in that first decade. Still, we went from a helpless newborn totally dependent on others for survival to a much more independent young person. We may still have to obey parents and depend on them for many things, but we are now in charge of our bodies and our behaviors. We know how to manage ourselves, we know safety rules, we know rules of getting along with others. Finally, we have learned to read and count, skills that are needed to be able to manage in the world.

In the first months, you learned to recognize people and objects around you. You learned to expect that they would be there with you. In infancy, you also learned to manage your body. First, rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking. This was quite challenging but you had this inner force that drove you to achieve these steps. Babies will keep trying to get up and walk. They will fall and sometimes cry and then try again and again until they are able to do it. Then they move on to the next thing, maybe climbing or running. They just don’t stop. They have a world to conquer, to take their place among the others.

Then, you learned to name people and objects. This is a very important step in becoming an independent person. Once you name, you can act with purpose with others. Before you could speak, you would reach towards an object but be incapable of informing others of what you wanted. You would cry if frustrated. With words, you could communicate your desire, ask for the object. You had already begun to learn that you were separate from others. Now you could begin to communicate and exchange with those separate others.

Then, in toddlerhood, you learned another hard step, you learned to manage your bodily needs, feeding yourself and becoming able to control your toileting, your bodily functions. This was the first step towards learning the rules of the world and towards being independent. When babies can manage their bodies, they don’t need others to do it for them. One more step towards autonomy. Autonomy is ruling ourselves. You also learned how to manage the environment: being careful not to bump into things, learn steps and stairs, avoid falling.

You then began to learn to accept and respect limits – the NO. You learned to manage your behavior, testing the rules at every moment in order to learn them and your limits. At the same time, you also learned that you could say NO to others. You were learning that you are a separate person, that you have choices. Of course, at two or three years of age, your NO didn’t have much power. Maybe it even got you in trouble with your parents. Still, it was the very beginning of your independence.

In middle childhood, you learned the natural rules of the universe. You learned what to touch or not, what to do or not. You learned to avoid hot things, you learned about heights and when you could safely jump or not. You began to learn to avoid putting yourself in danger. You stayed close to your parents when out in the community. You held your parents’ hand when crossing the street. You learned to look both ways. The world can be a dangerous place and it is easy to get hurt if you’re not careful. But you learned to manage to keep yourself safe.

You also learned the rules of conduct at home. You continued to learn to manage your behavior. Temper tantrums were no longer allowed. You learned how to be with your brothers and sisters, learned to play fair, to wait your turn, to say “sorry” when wrong. You also learned to share. A very important lesson: you began to learn how to calm yourself when frustrated, learn to accept those limitations.

It is hoped that the rules of conduct at home were made clear by your parents. When parents don’t really have rules at home, then children have a really hard time learning what is acceptable or not, learning to be with others. School, were the rules are clear and enforced, becomes difficult for them as they are confused about this new environment. Yet, most children manage to catch on, at least while they are in school.

At school, you learned the rules of the classroom and the playground. Most important, you also started learning the abstract rules needed to understand and manage in the world: arithmetic, reading, writing. This was very important. It is challenging for most of us to learn the basic skills but they are essential. In those late childhood years, your job was to have a solid grounding in those skills.

So, by the end of the first decade, children usually have a basic understanding of how to be with other children. They know how to manage their hygiene and their safety both at home and outside of the home. They have learned the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics and they understand that this is the base of what they will need to know in the adult world.

Hopefully, this first decade will have been easy and pleasant as you learned all these basic skills. For some children, it is not so pleasant but they do need to learn all those skills in order to succeed in the world. The first years of the second decade, from 10 to 13 are a time to catch up on what has not been learned in the first ten years.

You will learn that it is never too late: kids can get the help needed to catch up. Sometimes, the will just be offered to them, other times, they’re going to have to seek it out. Remember that it is important to acquire those skills and that people are there to help you.

Lastly, don’t forget that this is not a place to discuss personal problems as it is a public site. Also, there is no way that I can help you. Remember to get help form your family, relatives, teachers, counselors, and people in the community, maybe in a community program for kids or in your place of worship.

Dr. B.

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