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. Kids 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 because of hormonal changes or struggle with the transition from child to preteen. Conversations about sexual health will help build two-way communication as your child grows. Read more about what your child is going through in this stage.
- Become more aware of their body as they enter puberty.
- Begin to notice the physical changes of puberty (e.g., the penis grows, breasts develop, and pubic hair appears).
- May gain weight before they start to grow taller.
- Has a growth spurt (starting at about 11 years in those with ovaries and about 13 years in those with testicles). This period of fast growth usually starts just before or during puberty.
- May begin to menstruate (usually 2 to 2½ years after the breasts begin to grow). Menstruation is a sign a pregnancy can happen.
- May start having nocturnal emissions (wet dreams).
- Begin to sweat more so may have body odour.
Menstruation and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) can be scary and confusing for kids. Talking with your child beforehand can help make it less scary or confusing.
- Their main attachments are still often with those of the same gender.
- May masturbate, sometimes to orgasm.
- May be questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation.
- Show that they understand how others feel (empathy).
- Learn to express their ideas and thoughts in a better way – starting to handle emotions like fear, frustration and rejection better.
- Continue to develop their personal values and leadership skills.
- Start defining themselves through their environment, friends, clothes, culture, and TV.
- Learning to accept and value other points of view.
- Puberty may be more challenging for trans kids as the physical changes make their sex more noticeable, which doesn’t fit their gender identity. Parents may observe their pre-teens becoming unhappy and troubled. Unhappy or troubled kids need help no matter what the reason is.
Learning & Thinking (Cognitive)
- Continues to become more independent.
- Starting to learn that friends can have different ideas and customs and still be their friend.
- May feel guilty, confused or embarrassed about changes during puberty. They may talk with you less, which can mean they don’t get the support they need.
- Often given more responsibility around the home.
- Understands that their actions may have consequences.
- Friends and kids around them have more influence on their self-image.
- Your child is starting to form stronger and more complex friendships and peer relationships.
- They are starting to feel more peer pressure.
Click the link to learn more about children with Differing Abilities.
What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn
As kids enter the teenage years, they start to turn to their friends for answers and information. Being open to talking with them now helps your child know that they can come to you whenever they have questions. You will want to make sure your child has the right information to make healthy decisions.
At this stage, children should know all of the information from birth to 9 years old, plus know:
- about the 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
- that the sex a person is assigned at birth may be different than their gender identity.
- that there is a range of gender identities and sexual orientations. If they are questioning either gender or orientation, they need to know that they are loved and supported by their parents in their exploration.
- what consent means when it comes to touch, particularly sexual touch
- how to talk about the ways that sexuality is portrayed in the media
- that being a teenager doesn’t mean they have to be sexually active
To learn more, see Additional Resources.
Spend time together and use teachable moments to talk about sexuality and sexual health with your child.
In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see the curriculum overview on our Teacher Portal.