Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Six-Year Change

I've been thinking a lot about the "Six-Year Change" recently.  This is a formidable time in a young child's life, when she is leaving early childhood behind, but isn't quite ready for the next stage.  This can result in a child feeling quite unsettled.

There are a few well-known resources for more information about this Change:
* Free article:  "Observing the Six-Year Change" by Ruth Ker
* Book:  "You're Not the Boss of Me!" by Ruth Ker
* Parenting Passageway Blog:  The Six Year Old: An Anthroposophical View ; Understanding the Six/Seven-Year Old Transformation; Peaceful Living with the Six-Year Old;
Nancy Foster in her book "In a Nutshell", writes, "This leaves her feeling unsettled and dissatisfied with herself and with life in general.  She loses her earlier capacity for fantasy play, and literally does not know what to do with herself.  She may become defiant, or very silly, or unusually sulky and insecure; for some reason, many children express they by saying they are "bored"".

As I'm finding out, this isn't so much fun for either child or parent ;)

For us, the Change has manifested in Yoav feeling a sense of malaise.  He often says, "What can I do?" and has found a way of verbally bothering Elie to fill this void (saying things like "Elie doesn't like Elie" or "Elie doesn't like to play", which sometimes leads to Elie crying and other times Elie is able to find the inner strength to say, "Yes I do!").  He says he doesn't like to play anymore and actually hasn't played with any *toy* in several weeks (other than his Waldorf doll, per below).

I'm finding the Change to be very trying emotionally.  I think it's Yoav's discomfort rubbing off on me. And, unrelated to the Change, Yoav's eczema has gotten much worse with the coming of winter, so he's both figuratively and literally uncomfortable in his skin :(

I'm slowly finding a few ways to help us through this with our relationship intact:

* Rhythm:  Strong rhythm is critical for us.  It's important for most kids, but especially so for those with Melancholic temperaments (Yoav). 
* Real Work:  Yoav will happily help me prepare meals or clean the house.  He is quite a discerning chef - meticulously cutting potatoes, making up combinations for salads, kneading and shaping bread, etc.
* Real Work in the form of Play:  With the Change, he has started to want to play out real-life scenarios.  We signed for a mortgage last week (Yay! - more on that later), and now he's been asking to play "Bank"; he also has started playing with his Waldorf doll, giving birth, breastfeeding, wrapping in a blanket, etc.
* Outside:  There is NO evidence of the Change when we are outside.  So, of course, we're spending a lot of time outside - thank goodness we're not in freezing NY for this LOL!
* One-on-one time with each parent:  I think as part of the Change, Yoav is feeling a bit jealous of Elie since not only is Elie still very much in the cute toddler stage, but he's also happy most of the time and engaged with toys while Yoav is anxiously asking what to do.  I think some one-one-one time with both parents will be helpful.
* Gordon Neufeld:  Per Gordon Neufeld in "Hold on to Your Kids", Yoav's impulse control as pertains to the taunting is due to a lack of maturity with "mixed feelings".  He says that the key to self-control is mixed feelings.  p. 290: "It is when conflicting impulses are mixed that the orders cancel each other out, putting the child in the driver's seat."  Yoav dearly loves Elie and Yoav often helps Elie with all the love and maternal-ness imaginable!  BUT at the same time, when Yoav feels this discomfort with the 6-Year Change, his impulses get the better of him.  So, I've started working to draw out this tempering element by occasionally saying things like, "(while on a hike) Ah, you really want to go fast to catch up with Abba (Dad), but at the same time you want to go slowly so you can look for acorns..."
* Inner Work:  This is for me.  In the Anthroposophical world, there are many many books to help with Inner Work and Carrie at Parenting Passageway just wrote a post about it.  Since I'm Jewish, I shy away from the Anthroposophical books and turn to Mussar for help here...  Mussar is the Jewish version of Inner Work.  I'm currently reading "Cheshbon Ha Nefesh", which means "accounting of the soul".
* Clean, clutter-free house:  This is a well-known Waldorf teacher secret.  Clean up a bit and negative behavior dissipates.  So since we're having a particularly tough time, the house needs to be particularly clean and organized ;)

Nancy Foster writes about the end of this time stage:  "Later, her capacity to play happily and creatively will return, at a more complex level, and she will occupy herself more harmoniously once again."  I think we'll all be happier when we get through this, but, in the spirit of living in the moment and being thankful for our life and health, I'll focus on my 6-Year Change Toolbox and try to enjoy these days!


  1. Thank you for posting this. My almost six year old has been going through so many changes that it was almost bewildering. Your post sheds much insights.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! My six year old has been having a rough time lately, and I am afraid I haven't made it any easier on him. He gets worked-up, which gets me worked-up, which gets him even more worked-up.... I am going to try to change things up a little and see if it helps at all.

  3. Exactly ditto the previous two comments!!
    Thank you so much for this blog, Emily.

  4. thanks for all this great info in one place! We have a 6 year old too, and I know some, but not enough on how to really help her through it (& the rest of the family!)