Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ages and Stages

We humans develop in stages from pre-birth to death. There is a series of steps we take both literally and figuratively that lay the foundation for future growth and learning. These are neuro-bio-psycho-social steps that lead us to cognitive, emotional, physical, and social functioning. Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget are among the theorists who named the essential conflicts we must resolve before moving on to the next challenge of life. Our experiences with parents and others help us achieve these developmental milestones. However, conditions and events like illness and trauma can interfere with this process resulting in uneven developmental progress. In reality none of us is cognitively, emotional, physically, and socially the same age or stage. A child of 15, for example, may look his or her age or older, but have the brain functioning of a 12 year old, the social skills of a five year old, and the emotionally reactivity of a two year old. This child needs different and extra experiences to catch up, and parenting her or him like a typical 15 year old will not be successful. In my work, then, I teach "investigative parents" to target the developmental stage and not the chronological age of their child, easier said than done, until the puzzle pieces begin to fit together.