The year when children turn 12 is a very significant one in their development. It is a year when they are truly beginning to wake up to their individuality. And, at the same time, they are dealing with the changes happening in their physical bodies with the onset of puberty.
We must keep in mind at all times that what they are going through internally is shocking, scary and overwhelming for them. The inner turmoil they are going through is incredibly difficult for them to handle and manage. Their alarm is deep and disturbing and they do not want anyone to see this. They will hide behind masks and difficult behaviours. They will constantly be pushing and testing boundaries to see how firmly they are held.
This is the time when girls may begin their menstrual cycle. Boys’ voices will begin to drop and change. At this age they begin to lose their physical proportion as their limbs grow and different muscles develop. They begin to develop a heaviness about them as their bones and bodies strengthen further. This heaviness reflects their stronger connection to the Earth as they lose the “lightness” of childhood. Acne may begin to develop and children will be acutely aware of and embarrassed about these changes.
At this time children’s eating habits could change as they seem to have an insatiable hunger, needing to eat a lot more food than before. It is as if their body is digesting the food faster than they can cope with. This may lead to unrhythmically feeding patterns as they constantly snack throughout the day. This is because of the huge amount of growth happening in their being.
This is also the time when eating orders could manifest through a heightened awareness of body and weight. It is imperative that we are very aware and keep observing our children closely to ensure they are developing healthily. One may also notice changes in their sleep rhythm. They could start being more active at night, staying up later and then finding it incredibly difficult to wake up in the morning.
The heaviness they acquire at this age means that for some getting out of bed in the morning becomes a real struggle. It is vital that we teach our children healthy sleeping habits as they need many hours of good quality sleep.
Our big challenge for this year is to teach our children how to think. Their intellectuality must be pointed in the appropriate direction! At this age the teacher is working with their growing orientation to the outside world. They develop a very critical attitude- as they are now truly considering the laws of cause and effect. As their new capacities for thinking emerge, they can be led to a true understanding of the laws which govern our lives in terms of actions and consequences. They want to find out the laws which exist independent of humanity. Their dawning critical faculties must be directed towards observing the natural world from a scientific standpoint.
It is for this reason that we introduce Physics and Mineralogy as formal subjects this year. Their awareness should be directed towards the world they will work and live in as adults. At this age they still need to be challenged and they are capable of high standards of work and they must be pushed to reach this standard. They need activities which strengthen their memory as memory is one of the paths which leads to independent thinking.
As the children begin to distance themselves from their surroundings it is VITAL that their connection with the world be strengthened and renewed by means of differentiated experience which is supported by understanding.
At this time the children are now working with an inner life that is rich with emotions and polarities. They are operating in the realm of black and white; male and female; love and hate; good and bad; happy and sad etc. Some even compare this age to the Terrible 2s- a time when they say NO and question EVERYTHING. At this age friends and relationships take on a whole new meaning. Their relationships with each other, with their parents, with their teacher, with their siblings will change over this year, peer values become increasingly significant in their development which often leads to clearly distinguishable roles: leader, victim, tyrant, joker, popular, cool etc.
Their increasing interest in social relationships, provide many opportunities for children to take greater responsibility for their own class community. Peer pressure could become a real issue for some at this age. The trust shown up until now by the children towards the teacher will be put to the test through challenging, silly and sometimes sharply critical behaviour. And this will be the case at home as well. In the classroom, the teacher must establish a new relationship with the class which can deal with mood swings and assert a new lawful authority. This is also a time when many will take on “causes” e.g. becoming vegetarian or becoming fanatical about recycling or being earth-conscious.
This is one way we can channel their growing understanding of the world in a healthy direction. Our children need to now see and feel true human connection, the people around them are very important to them. We need to make sure they see and feel that we need one another, that we are connected even though we all have our own individual stories.