Lou's new book!
Growing Children, Thriving Children: Raising 7 - 12 year olds with confidence and awareness
I have two teenagers. I wish this book had been published when the eldest was six-and-a-half!
Growing Children, Thriving Children offers a fresh and clarifying explanation of the developmental phases of middle childhood, based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner, with contemporary influences as well. Lou Harvey-Zahra paints a lively picture of the kind of home-life environment that will be nourishing and supportive to children of this age.
I first came across Lou Harvey-Zahra at a talk she did a couple of years ago, hosted by Lincolnshire Waldorf Group. I took along my breastfeeding babe-in-arms. Her ideas were so intuitive to me that I felt that I knew them all already. Nonetheless, I bought both her books about parenting young children. Over the past two years I have referred back to them again and again. I often find myself saying to someone, “There’s this thing that Lou says that I find really helpful…” and I realise how much I refer to her ideas in my everyday life.
Growing Children Thriving Children continues on the same thread thread. It’s a much needed book: in contrast to shelf after shelf in the library and bookshop dedicated to baby and toddler books, there seems to be remarkably little available addressing the middle years.
I read this from cover to cover and I recommend you do, too, because even though the chapters are short and it is chunked into accessible sub-sections, the way the book is structured as a whole is helpful. That's not to say I won't go back and dip in.
Part one is an overview explanation of the child’s developments, which gives a deeper understanding of their experiences and needs through this period. On practically every page I had Ah-ha! moments, as I recalled my own middle years, as well as my teenagers’. The additions of the parent and teacher voices in side boxes were almost superfluous for me, so resonant are Lou's descriptions: the 9 year crossing, the lifting of the rose-tinted glasses, for instance.
Part two lays a foundation for creating healthy, trusting relationships and a loving, happy home life. If you were to skip part one, the ideas suggested here for families may seem ordinary and mundane without their vital context. Eat dinner together, play board games, read with your child. Most parents would have already thought of these things already, you would think? And anyone who would not already be open to crafting and making stuff with kids probably wouldn’t find Lou’s reasons especially persuasive - “knitting is a truly magical task!”
I hope readers won’t skip part two either, though, despite the occasional moments of banality, because part three - the trouble-shooting part - relies on these underlying habits and practices.
“While these daily rhythms and routines may appear mundane, they are, in fact, sacred. They are the means by which we strengthen our personal family connections, and they are the foundation for human nourishment - physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual.”
There are an awful lot of reminders, reassurances and gentle nudges throughout Growing Children Thriving Children that would have helped me through my sons' middle years - ways of understanding what they were going through, and ways I might respond constructively, creatively, empathically. I wish, in those days, I had done more of the little acts of love, the random acts of kindness that Lou suggests. When I was in the thick of it, I didn’t think of all those things, that with hindsight seem obvious.
I would totally recommend this book to parents and carers of 7-12 year olds - I am very sure that it will, as it says on the cover, increase your awareness and confidence as a parent. And I strongly suspect you, too, will be back for reminders over the course of these busy, challenging and surprising years. Enjoy!