10, 11 and 12 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Welcome to the preteens! At this stage of development, your child is beginning to be aware of, excited by, interested in and affected by the sexual aspects of their lives. Children at this age often ask lots of questions and are very curious. This can be a very emotional time for them—they may cry easily as they struggle with the transition from childhood to adolescence. Having conversations about sexual health will help build two-way communication as your child grows. Read more about what your child is experiencing in this stage of development.



  • Becomes more aware of their body as puberty approaches.
  • Begins to experience the physical changes of puberty (e.g., growth of genitals, breast development and pubic hair).
  • Often have a growth spurt (starting at about 11 years in females and about 13 years in males). This rapid growth usually starts before or during puberty.
  • Females may begin to menstruate (usually 2 to 2.5 years after breasts begin to grow). Menstruation is a sign pregnancy is possible.
  • Males may start having nocturnal emissions (wet dreams).
  • Children will have an increase in body odours.
  • They may gain weight before they start to grow taller.
Menstruation and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) can be scary and confusing for children. Providing your child with information about them before they happen can help ease their fears.


  • Child’s peer group has more influence on their self-image.
  • Their main attachments are still with those of the same sex.
  • May masturbate, sometimes to orgasm.


  • Shows empathy for others.
  • Learns to express their ideas and thoughts in appropriate ways—starting to handle emotions like fear, frustration and rejection better.
  • Begins to develop their personal values, persistence and leadership skills.
  • Starting to define themself through many things—their environment, friends, clothes, culture, TV, etc.
  • Learning to accept and value other points of view.
Try to avoid giving separate jobs based on your child’s gender. Sexual discrimination can begin at a very young age.

Cognitive (Learning & Thinking)

  • Your child is beginning to separate from you.
  • They are learning that friends can have different ideas and customs and still be their friend.
  • Some children may feel guilt, confusion and embarrassment about changes during puberty. They may talk with you less and therefore may not receive the support they need.
  • Responsibility around the home increases.
  • Your child is understanding that there are consequences to their actions.


  • Your child is starting to form stronger and more complex friendships and peer relationships.
  • They are starting to feel more peer pressure.

For information on children with Differing Abilities, click here.

What They Need to Know

As your child enters the teenage years, they start to turn to their friends for answers and information. Being approachable now helps your child to know that they can come to you whenever they have questions. You will want to make sure your child has accurate information to make healthy decisions. Click here to find tips for discussing sexual health and discussing your family beliefs and values.

At this stage, children should know the following information:

  • All of the information from birth to 9 years old, plus:
  • Body changes that will happen during puberty.
  • Basic information about STIs and pregnancy.
  • How the media (e.g., television, movies, magazines, social media, music videos and computer games) influences how people view their body and other people’s bodies.
  • How to talk about the ways that sexuality is portrayed in the media.
  • That as a teenager, they do not have to be sexually active.

For more information, visit our Resources page.

Spend time together and use teachable moments to discuss topics on sexuality and sexual health with your child.

To learn more, click here.


Click here to learn tips for discussing sexual health.

Helpful Tools


Parent Guide (0-12 year olds)

This resource will help you prepare for the ongoing conversations you’ll have with your child about sexual health. Whether you’ve had conversations in the past or not, it’s never too late to start!


Sexuality Wheel

The Sexuality Wheel depicts just how broad the concept of sexuality really is.


FAQ Topic Flash Cards

See sample questions and answers to help you start the conversation about sexual health with your child.


The "Every Body" Gender Identity Learning Tool

Understand the difference and correlation between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Tool

See terms and definitions for some of the more commonly known sexually transmitted infections.


Birth Control Tool

With several options available to choose from, this tool helps clarify each type of birth control and how it works.


Understanding Consent Video

Consent is an important concept for children to learn about from an early age, as it can lead to better relationships with family, friends, peers and, eventually romantic partners.


Tips for Discussing Sexual Health

Here are some tips for starting or having conversations about sexual health, at any age.


School Curriculum

The following is a summary of the human sexuality outcomes from Alberta Education’s Program of Studies. The bolded letters and numbers are the Alberta Education Codes for general and specific outcomes. Please visit their website for the complete Program of Studies.

Grade 4

W-4.3 Describe physical, emotional and social changes that occur during puberty; e.g., menstruation, secondary sexual characteristics, changing identity and moods 

Grade 5

W-5.3 Identify the basic components of the human reproductive system, and describe the basic functions of the various components; e.g., fertilization, conception

Grade 6

W-6.3 Identify and describe the stages and factors that can affect human development from conception through birth

W-6.6 Examine and evaluate the risk factors associated with exposure to blood-borne diseases – HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B/C; e.g., sharing needles, body piercing, tattooing, helping someone who is bleeding, being sexually active.

Grade 7

W-7.3 Examine the human reproductive process, and recognize misunderstandings associated with sexual development

W-7.12 Identify the effects of social influences on sexuality and gender roles and equity; e.g., media, culture

W-7.13 Examine the influences on personal decision making for responsible sexual behaviour

W-7.14 Examine abstinence and decisions to postpone sexual activity as healthy choices

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