7-, 8- and 9-Year Olds
Understanding Your Child’s Development
Your child is becoming more emotional, more independent and has a good understanding of their place, as well as the place of others, within their world. Talking about sexual health and sexuality now will help start the conversation and keep it going as your child ages. Read more about what your child is experiencing in this stage of development.
- Slow and steady growth continues.
- Some kids may start to experience physical changes related to puberty.
- Exploring their body is common.
- They’re aware of reproduction and the differences between genders but may not be too interested.
- Their main attachments are still often with those of the same gender.
- May masturbate, sometimes to orgasm.
- Emotions change quickly and reactions are strong – kids this age may be sensitive and overly dramatic.
- They can be helpful, cheerful and pleasant as well as rude, bossy and selfish.
- Starts to show more independence from parents and family.
- Starts to think about the future, understand their place in the world more and consider other people’s view of things.
Learning & Thinking (Cognitive)
- Their gender identity is well-established. They may explore adult roles with reverse role-play (e.g., acting out the role of other genders while playing house).
- May use some ‘bathroom vocabulary’ (e.g., enjoys rhymes about poo).
- May think that sexual terms are ‘bad’ words if they aren’t part of the family’s regular conversation.
- Learns to describe their experiences and talk about their thoughts and feelings better.
- Has their own sense of humour and enjoys telling jokes.
- Still asking questions about pregnancy, birth and babies. May be interested in comparing animal and human behaviour.
- Becomes embarrassed about their body. They may want more privacy.
- Begins to know the difference between behaviour that’s okay and not okay.
- May get competitive when playing games – likes to win and might not be happy to lose.
- Enjoys group play and may be interested in joining a club or team.
- Develops close friendships with other kids.
- Your child’s friends and other kids their age are beginning to influence how your child sees themselves (their self-image).
- Understands the ‘rules’ and may want to add some of their own rules.
- May have problems with friends sometimes – this is normal from time to time.
- Wants to be liked and accepted by others their age.
Click the link to learn more about children with Differing Abilities.
What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn
Your child gets information from all kinds of places, such as family, friends, teachers and the media. They’re starting to learn more. It’s important to correct wrong information. Talk about sexual health (including sexuality and relationships)—it teaches your child that they can come to you for information. If sexuality is something your family doesn’t talk about, your child may be more likely to believe stories they hear from others.
Some kids will start to notice the beginnings of puberty. Give your child the facts about their body and a basic understanding of puberty. This will help them to understand that these changes are normal and healthy. Try to explain things in terms that they will understand. Here are some examples:
Menstruation: Sometime during puberty, ovaries will release 1 egg cell each month. If this egg is fertilized by a sperm, it grows into a baby. To get ready for the fertilized egg, the uterus builds up a thick lining of blood and tissue. This lining is where the fertilized egg would grow into a baby. If the egg isn’t fertilized by sperm, the lining of the uterus breaks down and leaves the body through the vagina (menstruation) and the cycle starts all over again.
Nocturnal Emissions (wet dreams): These start when testicles start to make sperm. Some nights, when a person is sleeping, semen comes out of their penis. The small amount of semen will leave a wet spot on pyjamas or bed sheets. Some people have wet dreams and others don’t. Wet dreams usually end later in puberty.
Menstruation and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) can be scary for kids. Making sure your child knows about them before they happen can make things less scary.
There are some great ways to encourage healthy sexuality and development. At this stage, children should know:
- That their body is their own and no one can touch it without their permission—the difference between ‘okay touch’ and ‘not okay touch’. This may help kids tell a trusted adult if someone is touching them in a way they shouldn’t.
- The correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries. Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also helps to protect your child as you can be specific and clear when you talk to them about when and what touch is inappropriate. They will also have the words to tell you or a trusted adult if they feel something happened.
- How reproduction happens. For example, you could say, “When a sperm joins an egg, a baby grows in the uterus, and is born through the vagina.”
- Not to touch things such as used condoms or syringes. Now is a good time to teach them not to pick up anything if they don’t know what it is or if they think it’s dangerous.
- Basic information about body changes during puberty.
- That some people don’t feel that their actual gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
- The importance of hygiene and self-care when they start puberty.
- That families can look different. For example, when there are two moms, two dads, just one mom or dad, or a mom and dad–but that all of these types of families can be loving and happy.
To learn more, see Additional Resources.
Click to learn Tips for Talking About Sexual Health.
In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see Curriculum Overview on our Teacher Portal.