Father and son discussing sexuality and health

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 because of hormonal changes or struggle with the transition from child to preteen. Having 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 females and about 13 years in males). 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 children. Talking with your child beforehand can help make it less scary or confusing.


  • Their main attachments are still often with those of the same sex.
  • May masturbate, sometimes to orgasm.


  • 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 to define themselves through things like their environment, friends, clothes, culture, and TV.
  • Learning to accept and value other points of view.
Try not to give a job or chore based on your child’s gender. Gender discrimination can begin at a very young age.

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 children 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 children 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 to 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.

Click on the links to learn about tips about talking about sexual health and family beliefs and values.

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
  • 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.


School Curriculum

In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see the curriculum overview on our Teacher Portal.

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

Explore the dimensions of human sexuality.


FAQ Topic Flash Cards

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


The "Every Body"

Learn about the differences between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Tool

Learn about some common sexually transmitted infections.


Birth Control Tool

Explore birth control options, how they work and how well they protect against pregnancy and STIs.


Understanding Consent Video

For ages 12 and up.


Tips for Discussing Sexual Health

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


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