18 Emotional Changes Students in the upper elementary grades are sometimes moody. These mood changes are the normal result of the changes their bodies are going through, and of their need to figure out who they are and how they fit into this complicated world. Students this age can be very sensitive to criticism, and many are easily embarrassed. Peer relationships can be especially difficult. Friendships and peer alliances change quite frequently as a result of varying matu- rity levels and changing interests. Shifting relationships or the end of a friendship can be hurtful, especially to the child who didn’t initiate the shift or put an end to the friendship. The best way to support your child during these years is to provide en- couragement, love, and a stable home environment. Social Changes Children this age typically have one or two best friends. Family relationships are still important, but as students progress through the upper el- ementary grades, friends become more and more important. Students are also beginning to come to terms with their own sexuality—although relationships at this age often have an impersonal quality to them. Students this age are beginning to explore and discover their own iden- tities. They are becoming aware of who’s popular, who’s a good athlete, and who’s smart. They are also beginning to wonder what other people think of them. Most students don’t want to be seen as different, and they try to blend in with their friends and classmates. Wanting to fit in, however, can make students more susceptible to peer pressure and more easily influenced by the messages they receive from the media (e.g., “girls must be thin,” “boys should be tough”). Students who are self-confident are less influenced by media messages and peer pressure. It is, therefore, important for parents to help their chil- dren build their self-esteem and develop a strong sense of who they are.