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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As Our Child Models Grow: Ages & Stages

"Oh, he's just going through a phase!" We often explain childrens' actions as part of a stage, but what does that really mean? Professional counselors (like me!) and child development specialists believe that as kids grow they encounter universal life tasks that help them acquire new skills and a feeling of capability. Step by step children learn how to trust themselves and others, develop self esteem and increase their sense of initiative. As parents and industry pros it's helpful to become familiar with the needs and challenges our kids face as they mature as models and individuals. We can help them navigate the industry with success, while growing into healthy well adjusted young people.

This article will help introduce you to the Stages of the Life Span as developed by Erik H. Erikson. Based on the age & stage of your star in the making you can help them achieve their goals and thrive. Every child model has good and not so good days, but now you may better understand WHY! Check out the age breakdowns, goals, industry challenges and tips for parents below!

Stage 1 - Infancy, Birth to 2 years old
Our little bundles of joy must first and foremost figure out how to trust. This is the time in their lives when the foundation is set on how they view the world. Can a child learn to trust that their needs will be met, that they can feel safe and be adequately cared for? If for some reason they can't, feelings of doubt or anxiety can remain unresolved throughout their lives. Forming a reliable connection with a caregiver builds a sense of attachment and will make for a happy, hopeful baby. Singing, interacting and providing love will also enhance early intellectual development.

Challenges: Difficult temperament, hard to identify needs/reasons for crying, establishing a routine.

Tips for Parents: Spend time connecting with your baby and know that they are figuring the world out. Smile, laugh, talk and be there for our infant when they need you. Learn their cues so you can calm them when they get upset. Knowing your baby (and what settles him or her) will help them smile, coo and be extra adorable on set!

Stage 2 - Toddlerhood, 2 and 3 years
Ever heard of the terrible twos? Yeah, handful! It's only natural because most toddlers are teetering between feeling empowered through autonomy, and dealing with an overwhelming sense of shame and self doubt. Think potty training... They become fascinated with imitating the grown-ups around them and struggle to display their strong wills. They develop more control over their bodies, language, thought processes and learn to relate to their peers.

Challenges: Defiance, limited ability to communicate

Tips for Parents: Practice listening skills at home and set consequences for disobedience. Play with the camera! Smiling, posing, using simple words and following the photographer's directions will soon be a piece of cake! Give your child choices to make that will build their confidence, but maintain realistic expectations. Walk the fine line between enforcing rules and being overly critical. Let them know you will always love them, it's their behaviors that need improvement from time to time. And, if they don't nail an assignment, don't fret or make them feel ashamed. Have patience even when it's hard.

Stage 3 - Early School Age, 4 to 6 years
If I take a chance and show initiative will it be rewarded or will it backfire? This is the question that kids this age ask themselves over and over again. Am I smart, capable, likeable? Am I like the other boys and girls? Self theory and self esteem are budding. Kids are getting ready for school, sizing themselves up next to peers and developing a moral compass.

Challenges: Children can be overly critical of themselves, feel easily defeated or over confident

Tips for Parents: Help your child develop their values and sense of right and wrong. Once these are established, don't be surprised if they are over eager to uphold these standards. Never compare our child to others in hopes of it making them a better actor or model. Help them discover their individual talents and trust that they can do anything they set their minds to.

Stage 4 - Middle Childhood, 6 to 12 years
Middle childhood is defined by a focus on purposeful, industrious behavior. If your child does not embrace the idea that they can excel in areas they enjoy, they may develop a sense of inferiority. Team play and more developed friendships help them self evaluate. Though peer pressure becomes a factor, family experiences still trumps social influences. Kids without outlets like sports, activities, friends or school success can become victims of bullying or loneliness.

Challenges: Peer acceptance, withdrawal due to rejection, experiencing first major disappointments

Tips for Parents: Take the time to ask our child about their school experience, activities and friends. Keep your eyes open for signs they may be being bullied, or that they may be intimidating other children. This is the stage where your child may begin to feel embarrassed or disappointed if they don't book certain jobs. Being a child model may work to their social advantage, or conversely, make them a target. Talk to your child about their level of interest in the business. Are they excited and having fun? If not, take a break and help them find new interests and make new friends.

Stage 5 - Early Adolescence Age 12 to 18 years

Teenagers! Need I say more? They're emotional, hormonal, brooding and blossoming into young men and women before our eyes. They are exploring romance, testing the boundaries of their increasing independence and seem consumed by their friends. Parenting may be tough as they get anxious to start lives on their own in college or the "real world".

Challenges: Lots of attitude! Constant competition with their friends for their attention and respect. Feeling invincible.

Tips for Parents: Remind your teen of the importance of respect, setting priorities and responsibility. Allow them plenty of time for friends and school commitments, but also make family togetherness important. Accept their interest in the opposite sex, but encourage them not to get too serious too fast. Be honest about the pitfalls and dark side of the modeling industry as they mature. This will help them understand how to conduct themselves, and recognize inappropriate behavior.


Deanna said...

This article will appear in The May issue of Model Source Magazine. Like it on Facebook!

skip.davis said...

Good Information SweetHeart,
Remember.. GOD, Love, Patience,and More Love. is a great recipe for a Happy Child.