As our children move from toddlers to pre-school to grade school, we, as parents, are often amazed at the profound degree to which the children have grown, both physically and intellectually. Often, what accompanies the intellectual process is the overwhelming development of inquiry in these same children. With abstract thinking beginning to develop, children in grade school will begin to ask some of life’s toughest questions.
One of the key aspects of a gradeschool child’s brain development involves the advancement in abstract thinking and the interaction with new social groups. It is during this period of a child’s life that differences among other children become more evident. For many children, this is simply due to the exposure to social groups outside of the home. As these children have, as a general rule, no pre-conceived notions about children of other ethnic and social groups, they will find playing and interacting with children of different backgrounds to be rather simple.
While many gradeschool children simply do not notice the difference in ethnic or societal background of other children, there are some who will. For these children, questions about race, economic class, handicap and even gender may become more common. As a parent, it is crucial to understand that a child, when asking these questions, is usually not seeking out information to substatiate inferiority or superiority and, instead, is simply trying to understand why there is a difference. As a result, parents should use caution when responding to a child’s questions, using tact to explain race, gender and socionomic status as a contributing factor to society.
Commonly, parents of grade school children will hear two sets of questions, “Why?” and “How come?”. These two questions are really the full spectrum of a grade school child’s ability to understand the world he lives in. In most cases, the grade school child is working to not only understand the social acceptance processes but also understand what is fair and not fair, according to his or her own terms. It is during this period of childhood that children often begin to develop their own set of morals and values based on what is considered fair.
With terrorism and war at the forefront of media coverage, many grade school children are also grasping to understand the impact of world events. Because abstract reasoning is not fully developed, children will take their exposure to violence and immorality on television and, often, apply those same principles to a much closer aspect of home life. For example, seeing a plane crash into a building, the child will then apply that same incident to his own experience of flying on a plane. As a result, parents must pay close attention to the media and news exposure children are provided at a young age.
As with any transition through childhood, the period in which children begin to attend school will mark a significant change in the perceptions of the child and the associated curiousity. Understanding children are simple working to establish their foundation and own moral opinions, parents should try to expose and provide the most objective responses possible. In doing so, children can learn to develop their own opinions about the world they live in.