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What is maturity? Maturity refers to the child’s age-appropriate development and the child’s ability to take age-appropriate responsibility. We say a child is mature when the child acts his or her age. Although this idea sounds fine, all of us – child and adult alike – vary in our maturity level. The child who likes to play games may be a normal, mature child. The adult who plays games excessively may be immature. The second measure, responsibility, is a good way to check on the first description. If the child or adult completes all the work for which he or she is responsible, he or she may elect to play or relax for the balance of the day, and that behavior is not considered immature.
How does immaturity show itself? The child shows immaturity in social situations in two ways. The child may decide to play only with younger children. The child may not be able to maintain a relationship with age-appropriate or same-age children. The socially mature child chooses friends of about the same age. Some may be older and some younger, but most will be about the same age when possible. Secondly, the mature child chooses activities that are appropriate for his or her age. Although we may all at times play games or exhibit behavior that is typical of a younger age, the majority of what we do is age appropriate.
How do you prevent immaturity from becoming a problem? You can help your child develop an appropriate maturity level in several ways. First, see how your child compares to other children of the same age. Does your child fit in? Does your child like to play the same games these children do, or does your child play games typical of younger children? If you child plays with younger children, is it by choice or by circumstance? That is, does your child have the availability of children the same age? If not, then you, as parent, may be able to help.
Remember, we all regress as adults and children at times. We may play baseball as a child, but we may also enjoy it as an adult. Maturity depends not on one bit of behavior, but on the overall behavior an individual shows.
Recommendations: The more social events your child attends with children of the same age, the faster socialization skills will improve. Look for social situations your child may be interested in, for example, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, clubs, or athletic activities.