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11/23/15blog post

kids aren't little adults

Kids aren’t little adults. While the physical differences are obvious, the psychological ones are not, particularly as kids and teens appear more sophisticated than previous generations. Here are a few key differences.

1.) More Egocentric. Children experience the world from their own very limited perspective. When something bad happens, they are more likely to wonder about the impact on themselves, rather than on others. In adulthood, we call this narcissism. In childhood, we call this normal.

2.) More trusting. Most children fortunately haven’t had a lot of bad experiences with other people. They tend to be trusting, or in cases vulnerable, to the influence of others. Trusting others is positive in many ways, as it gives parents and other loving adults the opportunity to guide young people. However, this also means parents should be more cautious about the impact of peers and others on our kids.

3.) More reactive to stress. I have a variety of ways to deal with a difficult day. I can talk with my spouse or friends, challenge my unhealthy ways of thinking about things, play basketball, or run a few extra miles.

Most kids don’t have sophisticated strategies to deal with difficult times. Therefore, they are more susceptible to tough times. With preschool kids, you’ll see stress manifested in problems with eating, toileting, or sleeping. Older youngsters reflect stress in their behavior.

4.) Shorter attention span. Most children and teens don’t have the ability to sustain concentration on a single task for an extended period of time. Kids need a lot of time to exercise, do nothing and to simply give their body and brain rest.

5.) Little sense of perspective. An eight-year-old told me that her mom always screamed at her. I asked the girl to keep a diary of how many times her mother yelled in the seven days between our sessions. The youngster came back and had recorded three times.

Most kids think in terms of extremes, which can be very aggravating to adults. They will frequently use the words “always” or “never” to explain their feelings. They have a difficult time understanding the nuances of a situation.

6.) Very needy of attention. Kids need a lot from us to maintain their psychological well-being. They need lots of hugs and affection as young kids, and continued attention as they get older.

Adults mistakenly think that their teens don’t want their approval. Teens need and want it, but it just has to be done in a more subtle way.

These special characteristics of childhood are both fun and challenging. Enjoy them. They don’t last very long!