Vital Parenting Skills For A Healthy Middle Childhood

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For many children, middle childhood, spanning the ages of six to 12, can be a crucial time in a person's life. The skills children learn during this time often inform their adolescence and can carry over into adulthood. 

Children might learn more about relationships, roles and responsibilities, conflict resolution, emotional control, and their bodies during middle childhood. These tips for parents may ensure their children experience a healthy middle childhood by offering consistency and discipline, being supportive, encouraging an interest in learning, and modeling healthy relationships.

Develop parenting skills that can help your child succeed

What is middle childhood?

Middle childhood is the period of life between six and 12 years of age. During this time, young children learn skills that will help them develop friendships and other relationships throughout their lives. Children between six and 12 may also learn about different roles and responsibilities, like completing chores and respecting others. They may also begin exploring their independence, where a child’s bedroom can become their personal safe space instead of staying by your side at all times. As a result, these years can be vital, and a child at this age may benefit from trying different pathways and hobbies to get to know themselves and their place in the world.

The importance of a healthy lifestyle for middle childhood

In early childhood, a child learns emotional control and attachments, cognitive skills, language skills, and motor skills. They often develop these skills and abilities further as they age and work through middle childhood. If they don't learn these skills during their early childhood, it can lead to deficiencies in their later life and may cause them to experience challenges as they enter middle childhood. They may also have difficulty in their adulthood due to this delay.

Younger children who experience environmental stress or inadequate care and attention from a caregiver may have delayed milestones. These delays might damage brain development, potentially leading to issues with social development. Though developmental delays can be assisted in later life, parents and caregivers can prevent some challenges by being present in a child's life. 

Setting up children for physical and mental health

Because your child may be constantly learning during their early years, the skills they gain can set them up for success into adulthood. For example, they may learn to strive for success in school and start caring for physical and mental health. They might also learn self-discipline and the ability to make positive decisions. 

Healthy relationships and social skills 

Children may start forming healthy relationships and resolving conflicts. Each of these areas can be crucial to their success in later life, and a deficiency in any could result in mental health challenges, like chronic stress or anxiety. 

Children are often at risk during middle childhood for developmental and behavioral disorders, asthma, and other chronic conditions. It can benefit them to have healthy relationships and caregiver encouragement. If you notice your child struggling with mental or physical health, ensuring professional support can be vital, as it may prepare them to cope with similar challenges in the future. 

Healthy eating and physical activities

Many children begin learning about healthy food choices during middle childhood. While children consume what they’re fed for family meals and in school, they may begin seeking their own snacks, meals, and drinks. 

Speak with your child’s physician to understand their physical fitness needs, a healthy range for their weight, and what foods will help them avoid health problems. Your child’s doctor may also examine your child’s body fat percentage and risk for any health issues. 

Here’s a short list with examples of potentially unhealthy foods that parents may want to educate school-aged children about: 

  • Sugary and salty snacks

  • Foods high in saturated fat 

  • Fast foods 

  • Sugary drinks 

Here’s a short list of nutritious foods that parents may want to teach their children about: 

  • Low-fat dairy products 

  • Low-fat, high-protein foods like tofu, fish, and chicken breast

  • High-fiber foods like whole grains 

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables 

One way to teach your children about these foods is to discuss them while you eat meals that exemplify the foods you’re suggesting and minimize less healthy foods. 

Similarly, if you’re suggesting that your child stay physically active, consider doing so while you’re being active alongside them. For example, while going for a walk or exploring a hiking trail. 

Consistency and support from parents as children develop

The necessity of consistency and support from parents

It can be helpful for parents to remain encouraging and supportive of their children during middle childhood. While consequences for maladaptive patterns may help children recognize misbehavior, remain consistent and ensure your child understands why the consequences have occurred and how to take different actions next time.

During middle childhood, children can benefit from consistency in parenting. As they learn more about themselves and understand relationships, fairness and consistency can help them develop a healthy understanding of relationships, including boundaries. 

Promoting an interest in learning can also benefit children during this time in their lives. Modeling positive relationships, encouraging your child to develop connections, and helping them explore and experiment with activities can also be beneficial.


Support options for parents of school-age children

If you want to ensure that your child has a healthy middle childhood but don't know if your parenting strategies are effective, you may benefit from working with a licensed therapist to learn new skills and address mental health and wellness. You don't have to have a mental illness to reach out to a therapist.  

As a parent, finding the time in your busy schedule to drive to a therapist's office and attend sessions in person can be challenging. If this is the case for you, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be a more convenient alternative because you can connect with a professional from home. In addition, you can choose an appointment time outside of standard business hours with some therapists. 

Research has shown that online therapy can act as an effective treatment for various mental health conditions, so if you feel that stress, anxiety, depression, or another challenge is holding you back from being the best parent you can be, online support may be a practical choice. In addition, the study notes that online options can be as effective as in-person therapy.

Develop parenting skills that can help your child succeed


Children grow up fast between six to 12. This stage can be essential because the skills learned during this time can impact children through adolescence and adulthood. During middle childhood, children may learn more about emotional control, relationships, conflict resolution, and roles and responsibilities. Parents can help their children move through this stage healthily by being supportive, offering consistency and discipline, modeling healthy relationships, and encouraging an interest in learning. If you're looking for further guidance, consider contacting a licensed therapist for insight and support.
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