May 3, 2023 — By Wendy Sachs

While most families who hire nannies have children who are younger, many times nannies are caring for older kids home in the summer on school break. Let’s take a few minutes to review developmentally the needs of these kids.

Changing in Many Ways
From ages 8-12 years, kids are really changing. They start to develop a true “best friend” and begin to define themselves outwardly, by the way they appear or act. A child who is 6-8 years old can only sit still about 15-20 minutes at a time, even though at school they may be forced to sit for longer. They are concrete operators, making choices based on things they can see or touch not always processing info with inferences. Their bodies in these middle years may be awkward and uncoordinated as they are growing and may begin puberty. They don’t always have a good idea of what their bodies can do.

Separation and Opinions
This is the period of time where true separation begins as the opinions of peers and other adults become more important than their parents. At this age kids may be able to start to see things from another perspective. As they see these other points of view they start to show more sophistication in their interactions, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings.

Privacy Needs
Kids in these middle years will start to prefer more and more privacy and time alone. It’s important to support this by knocking before entering their bedroom and giving them autonomy over their personal hygiene.

Grasping Moral Dilemmas
As kids grow into adolescence from ages 12 to 18 you will begin to see more ability to grasp moral dilemmas, abstract thought and the ability to set and achieve goals independently. Even though they may be more able to think logically and communicate effectively, their prefrontal cortex is still growing. That means they may not have developed strong impulse control or organizational skills. They will need support with this until they are in their early 20’s.

Justice and Equality
Teen have a strong sense of justice and equality. They continue with puberty (age 12 is the middle year girls begin puberty). They will typically go thru a growth spurt and may feel more comfortable in their bodies. These are they ages where an interest and skill in sports may shine.

Peers and Influence
Friends are becoming more important than ever and peer groups can be intense. It is easy for these kids to be influenced by peers. Kids are separating from their families and rely on the intense friendships. They can also be a bit of a risk junkie and want to test their autonomy.

Sleep and More Sleep
Teens need more sleep than you might think, up to 9 hours a night. This leads to some kids sleeping in all summer and an interest in naps.

Truly working with older kids can be very gratifying, but very different than your typical infant. Interestingly, it is more similar than you would think to work with a toddler and a teen. Both are looking for independence while not really able to be truly independent. Both teens and toddlers can be moody and have poor impulse control. Both respond well to caregivers who are patient and can give them some space. Ultimately building relationships with these kids will pay off in big ways.