A social age
It is easy to see the physical changes that mark the transition from early childhood (0-6 years) to childhood (6-12 years). Her milk teeth fall out, limbs lengthen, the soft hair coarsens and her immune system strengthens. Bruises and grazes begin to be worn as badges of honour. There may be tears from a cut, but she might also want to look at the blood under a microscope. These physical changes give the child the strength to move beyond the home out into the wider world.
The shift from the home to the world is mirrored by a shift from the individual to the group. The second plane child is less interested in doing things alone; instead she is drawn to collaborating with others. Children at this age quickly realise that any group of people that is going to stay together needs an agreed set of rules to do so. These are normally informal and unspoken, but they also become explicit and formal – the rules of the game, a secret code, or a Brownie promise. At other times we can see this when children ‘tell tales’. But when we are told ‘X did Y’, what the child is really saying is ‘Am I right that X shouldn’t have done Y? Knowing this we can simply agree that Y probably wasn’t a very kind thing to do.
Over these years she realises that she has an identity of her own rather than just as a daughter. It is not that she loves her family any less; just that she is discovering a new aspect to herself. In her slightly clumsy attempts to break away from the family unit a little it can be that courteous manners also seem to disappear. Such moments signal it is time to shift from ‘because that’s what we do’-type explanations to involving her in the creation of ‘the guidelines’ for being together.
All these social experiences are significant and developmentally important. Between six and twelve years an inner moral compass develops, born out of a practical experience of collaborating with others and intellectual exploration of ‘good’ society.