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Social & Emotional Development

As your child spends more time with friends and peers, he's also going to spend more time thinking about his own accomplishments and self-image. During the middle years, your child is likely to experience a dip in his self-esteem as he compares himself more often to his peers than he did in the early years. However, at this age, he will also come to know and understand that he can be good at one thing and bad in another, but it doesn't mean that he is bad. For example, your child might be the best artist in his class but may not be very athletic – he will still have a positive sense of self because he has areas in which he excels. He is also able to identify how ability, effort and other factors impact success and achievements.

Now is a great time to help your child identify her strengths and things she needs to work on. In the later middle years, your child will also begin to tie her self-esteem to things outside of herself like friendships, clubs, or babysitting. As she leaves the middle years and enters the teen years, her self-esteem may rise.

For now, your child is probably going to do a lot of comparing which, unfortunately for many parents, means a lot of whining, complaining and begging. Once upon a time, children used to play outside in the neighbourhood until the street lights came on and it was time for supper. Now, children are often scheduled into play dates, parties and other organized events. All of these events often end up getting bigger and bigger.

Birthday parties and play dates are great fun and are really important for children. However, the cost of keeping up with the last birthday party or play date can be impossible. Many parents can feel guilty if they don't do what other parents are doing for these events. Our children can do a good job of making us feel guilty for not shelling out the money for a big production, too. But do you really need to rent a community centre, inflatable bouncer house, magician, and cotton candy machine to show your child and his friends a great time?

No way! Depending on your child's interests and age you can come up with great party ideas. For a younger middle years child, a pizza-making party or day at the park might be perfect. For older children a sleepover with best friends, favourite foods, video games and movies is all he needs. You can set limits on how many children will be invited and should discuss this with your child. Ask what he would like to do and work with his suggestion. But remember: children can have fun in any situation – they will have a great time no matter what.

To survive your child's birthday party or play dates you have to set limits. Know ahead of time how much you'd like to spend and how much time you have. Perhaps your child will be able to do one thing with his friend on a play date – supper at a restaurant, bowling, or an ice-cream treat. Remind him that he will have many play dates with this friend, so they will have a chance to do everything – just not all in one day. You might also want to remind him of the many toys, games and movies he already has: play dates don't have to happen outside of your home and they don't have to cost a penny!

Some parents have great ideas, connections (like a magician in the family) or plans for birthday parties. That's okay – it doesn't mean you have to follow their lead. In fact, this is a great opportunity to show your child that the important part of his birthday is not to spend the most money, but to have fun and celebrate your fantastic child while sticking to your budget.

Managing Gift Expectations

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