Children experience several development milestones as they grow. As a parent, there are roughly four development areas you need to monitor in order to ensure the overall development of your child: cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development, and physical development. Research shows that there are many behaviours and skills that your child can learn that will aid in the development in these areas.
However, your child’s development is not a simple, linear process. Some milestones may be crossed earlier or later than average children, and their development needs may change as they age. It is always a good idea to speak to your child’s teachers or a child development specialist if you have any concerns in this area.
Expose them to different types of learning
The average 11-year-old can most likely understand how to properly operate electronic devices such as tablets and phones, write long texts such as stories and letters, and pay attention for longer time periods. However, the prefrontal cortex of their brain is still developing, which means they have yet to master logical thinking. As your child progressively reaches the age of 16 or 17, these logic patterns develop further, allowing them to master internalising and implementing learning and work habits.
With such potential to develop themselves aside from academic studies, it’s important to try exposing them to various types of learning outside of school, so that they can develop their cognitive awareness. For example, you might notice that your child has developed an interest in art or playing a musical instrument - take them to art or music classes to develop their creative abilities, and nurture their curiosity and thirst for exploration.
If your child seems to display an interest in technology, machines or understanding how stuff works, you can expose them to educational videos to develop this interest further. These experiences might be short-lived, but the cognitive abilities your child develops will last them for the rest of their lives.
Encourage them to develop their language skills
Language development milestones can vary according to a child’s age. An 11-year-old should be able to read for specific ideas, understand how to write main ideas, and take short notes. By the time they reach 16–17 years of age, they should be encouraged to read, speak, and write fluently. This is also an age where they should be encouraged to develop informed opinions through educational and informative resources.
Apart from the support offered in school, it is helpful to use online courses, libraries, and learning workshops where your child is encouraged to develop the skill of reading widely and writing persuasively.
Nurture their Emotional and Social Development
You will notice that your 11-year-old will increasingly form their opinions and viewpoints, independent of you as a parent. This will be evident when they begin to speak their mind and disagree with your opinions. It’s easy to conclude that they are being rebellious and difficult to manage, but it may be more reassuring to view this rebellion as a normal development process instead.
Therefore, try and stay away from enacting hard rules which they are forced to follow. Openly communicating with your teenager in a non-threatening manner is a good place to start. Focus on why certain rules and boundaries need to be followed, rather than how.
Besides their emotional development, we should also start introducing them into the workings of society. Expose them to various types of life skills, such as learning how to manage finances, and getting them to internalise routines and good habits, such as sleeping early, and switching off distractions such as phones and social media from time to time. They should also start to learn to view failure and determination as two sides of the learning process.
Instil a healthy understanding of how their bodies will develop
The ages of 11 to 16 can be a difficult time, where your child may not understand what is happening to their bodies. This is also around the time when their self-esteem is most likely to be negatively affected by body-shaming. The usual culprits might be their equally confused and developing peers, as well as restrictive standards on social media on what a perfect body should look like.
Teach your child about being comfortable with their bodies and forward them information about it that directly addresses people of their age group. Hopefully, they will begin to internalise habits such as getting adequate sleep, exercise, and eating nutritious food. This will help with their healthy physical development as they continue to grow till ages 17 to 19.
At the same time, be sure to discuss the physical milestones that they will reach in due time, and listen to what they are physically and emotionally experiencing without judgement. They should also be taught to understand the meaning of consent and that the boundaries around their and others’ bodies must be respected.
As a parent raising their children, you need all the support you can get. That’s why it’s always a good idea to stay connected with other parents who might be experiencing similar issues in parenting. With that said, try to avoid comparing your child's development with other families; every child's development takes place at a different pace, so be patient with your child and be there for them when they need your support. With time and attention, they will eventually grow to become reliable, independent adults.