Do you ever wonder why you find yourself thinking that your child seems young for their age? It’s because it’s true.
Kids who come for social coaching (some with profiles of ADHD or Social Communication challenges) do act in ways that make them appear younger than their same-age peers. The other piece of the equation is that, more often than not, they are more advanced than their peers intellectually and cognitively and are usually very bright kids.
So what’s up here? There is a gap between social-emotional development and cognitive development. Think of it as about one-third. So if you remove one-third of your child’s chronological age, you will find their social-emotional developmental age. Examples could be:
Your 4-year-old still engages in parallel play instead of cooperative play with other kids his age
Your 11-year-old tween still enjoys the same toys and TV shows as children that are 8 or 9.
Your teen doesn’t seem ready for life at college even though academics wouldn’t be a problem.
A challenge for these kids is that adult expectations are at their chronological age, not their developmental age (because they are so smart or gifted in other areas). When we hold kids to expectations they are not developed enough to meet is where their self-esteem begins to take a hit, and you will see kids become defeated, give up, and act out. That’s not to say that there are some days your child can meet expectations, but when they are not, it’s good to question which age you are currently dealing with, chronological or developmental and raise or lower expectations as needed.
How do you close the gap? By helping kids build skills through patient coaching or in some cases, medicine has helped close the gap.
Honestly, as the mom of a 33-year-old ADHD’er who still needs about the same support as a young adult of 22 graduating from college, I believe these guys could very well always be a little young for their age. I joke, but with some seriousness, that by the time he’s 45, we’ll be good to go as he’ll be developmentally 30.
Keep this 1/3 rule in mind when your child seems to prefer playing with younger kids or engages in younger activities. Enjoy their creativity and youthful side. After all, who doesn’t wish their kids could stay younger just a little longer – it keeps us young, too!
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