Communicating with children

Middle Years

Seven through 10 years

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1258/Naz
A boy holding a radio in the village of Ranja in Mansehra District in North Western Frontier Province.

During middle years, children gradually develop into more independent and separate human beings who are capable of exploring the world around them. They use more sophisticated language; learn a tremendous amount of new information; and acquire a host of new skills, including literacy, formal school studies, and knowledge about the world and people in it. They gradually break free from an egocentric perspective of life where they are placed at its centre, and learn to put themselves in the shoes of others. They are curious and develop social skills and friendships, as well as become more prone and receptive to a host of exclusion practices, such as gender and race stereotyping, bullying and victimization. They explore their environment more independently and continue to be prone to accidents. They can take more responsibility for their behaviour, gradually learn to delay gratification, and learn tasks that develop self-confidence and independence.

What children in middle years see and hear at home, in their school, their community and in media, influences their behaviours, attitudes and world views. Towards the end of this period, some children, particularly girls, already move into adolescence, and are challenged by dramatic physical and emotional changes.

COMMUNICATION NEEDS AND SKILLS

 Domains Main Developmental Characteristics
Cognitive

  • Better distinguishing between fantasy and reality
  • Understanding inner motivation of characters
  • Understanding causality (that “one thing leads to another”)
  • Using more sophisticated language
  • Developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  • Developing understanding of television and other media codes and conventions (use of camera shots and editing, sound and music cues, etc.)
Behavioural/
Physical
  • Becoming more independent in taking care of daily needs such as personal hygiene, feeding, taking care of possessions
  • Learning to follow rules of play and interactions
  • More interested in taking part in drama and playing sports
  • More concerned about body image and appearance
  • Taking more responsibility for their own actions
Social/
Emotional
  • Friends gradually taking a more central role in their lives
  • Continuing to need supportive adults and positive role models
  • Clearly preferring same-sex friends
  • Learning about right and wrong and making moral choices
  • Developing exclusionary and stereotyping behaviours
Communication Needs
  • To nurture positive feelings about themselves, others and the world
  • To explore and test their own ideas, skills and talents
  • To be guided in using their potential in positive ways
  • To have their feelings and worries understood and respected

 Implications for Communication

• Present longer and more dramatic stories
• Offer child-centred stories and characters
• Portray learning and school achievement as an opportunity to develop new, interesting skills and talents
• Use strategies such as visual and auditory humour and cognitive challenges (e.g., brain teasers, riddles, tongue twisters, etc.)
• Include interactive problem-solving and critical thinking
• Model pro-social actions such as kindness, conflict resolution and caring about others
• Offer strong, positive adult and child role models with high moral standards
• Introduce sensitive topics that show other children dealing with social justice or difficult issues like death, anger, abuse, disability, etc., in creative and healthy ways
• Show children making a difference in their own and other’s lives, even in difficult circumstances (realistic heroines and heroes)
• Present stories about friendship, loyalty and “doing the right thing”

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