This has been adapted from the Phase Series by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy

Parenting is hard. Just when you think you understand your kid, everything changes. And then you have to get reacquainted with them and figure out a new way to parent. It might be helpful to know that every kid at every phase is asking a unique and fundamental question. How you answer that question for your child will communicate the one thing they need most: LOVE.

Your fourth or fifth grader can understand different points of view, empathize with others, and negotiate like a champ. That means one thing: Your influence is shifting. Your kid still needs you, but they are beginning to need you in a different way.

They are asking one major question:

“DO I HAVE FRIENDS?”

Sure, everyone needs a friend. But research shows there’s extraordinary value in having a best friend in the fourth and fifth grade. Kids need to share their most authentic version of themselves with another person. So, give them the love and acceptance they need by doing one thing:

ENGAGE their interests.

And remember, they are interested in friends. So, this year include peers, coach relational skills, and helping them develop healthy friendships. When you engage your child’s interests, you communicate, “Your relationships have value.”

So pay attention to what they like and who they like. Who and what do they seem to enjoy the most right now in this phase?