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Just a Phase?

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: I have two daughters, seven and ten years old. The seven-year-old is outgoing and talkative. She has a mind of her own, but at the same time lets my husband and I know we are the center of her world. But my ten-year-old, on the other hand, seems not to need us. My husband and I have been out of the military for almost five years. I work out of the home now so I can spend more time with the girls -- time my older girl doesn't seem to want. She confides in the comfort of strangers (teachers, other parents, etc.). It's is as if she has cut herself off from the rest of the family. People outside of the family are most important to her. Is this just a stage she's going through?

A: There are probably several things going on with your older daughter. First, she's ten years old. That's a time when girls are approaching puberty and are beginning to go through many hormonal changes. Girls who have been best friends since kindergarten suddenly can't stand each other at age ten, and girls who have gotten along well with family members may begin to have problems.

Your older daughter was five when you both left the military and probably had to be fairly independent for a good part of her life. Your younger daughter was only two then and it's likely she did not have to make as much of an adjustment.

Finally, you're probably dealing with differences in children's personalities, as well as some birth order issues. Your older daughter was encouraged to be independent at an early age as both a first-born child and as a military child. Your younger daughter has most likely been babied more and was a military child only until she was two.

Talk with the school counselor about what's going on with your older daughter. He may be able to give her some individual time or include her in a small group. You may decide that you could all benefit from some family counseling, and the school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your area.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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