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Every phase has unique cultural changes. But you can’t discover everything you need to know about the culture of childhood and adolescence in a book. By the time a book is printed, the culture has changed. 

The way for you to learn some of what you need to know is to go to their movies, read their books, watch their TV shows, follow their favorite celebrities, listen to their music, and most importantly, show up where they show up. From time to time, you might even find yourself at an elementary talent show, a middle school football game, or a high school play. Think of it as research.  

There are other changes in a kid’s world that are much more predictable than cultural change. Every phase has its own predictable crisis. These crises help shape our identity because they give us an opportunity to navigate new challenges. 

In the first five years of life, a child forms some impressions about themselves and the world. The way a child resolves the “Am I” questions of these phases establishes a critical foundation for the child’s future. It shapes how a child learns to trust others, how confident the child feels about his or her own abilities, and how the child internalizes motives for behavior and self-control. The best way to resolve a preschooler’s relational questions is to consistently embrace the child’s physical needs.  

Practically speaking, here’s how to do that: 

AM I SAFE?

Preschoolers need to know they are safe. 

When adults consistently respond to a preschooler’s needs, it establishes trust.  

AM I ABLE?

When a toddler is one or two years old, the toddler discovers new abilities.

When adults patiently allow a toddler to try new things, the toddler develops confidence.  

AM I OKAY?

When a preschooler is three or four years old, the preschooler learns a few rules and expectations. 

When adults set boundaries and discipline with love, preschoolers cultivate self-control. 

This is why kids and teenagers need adults who will discover their world. They need adults who understand and respond accordingly to the crisis of every phase. 

When you understand the crisis of every phase, you respond with relationships that meet a kid’s most basic needs; and you give kids a healthy foundation for future relationships. Relationships bring clarity. Relationships create a safe place to resolve who we are. When kids see themselves the way a loving adult sees them, it changes how they see themselves.

This content was contributed by Phase. Discover all the resources available for your preschoolers in the Phase store.