Growth and Development what to Expect from your 10 Year old

As children approach their tenth birthday, entering the realm often referred as the “tween” years, parents may notice several changes in their emotional and physical development. Children seem to grow up quickly during their middle childhood years, and some will begin to show early signs of puberty, particularly girls.

In addition to the physical signs of development, children at this age also experience emotional growth that may cause them to crave independence from their families and want to spend more time with friends. Parents and children can work together through this developmental milestone by having open discussions about the changes ten-year-olds can expect in their bodies and minds.

Physical Development

Parents with ten-year-old daughters may start to see early signs of puberty, including breast and hip development. Some girls will go through growth spurts that leave them taller than the boys of their same age. Though most girls begin menstruating closer to age twelve, there may be a few who begin their cycles as early as ten years old. Boys tend to hit their growth spurts closer to twelve-years-old, but some will also grow to be taller than their peers as early as ten.

Both boys and girls may start to produce more oil in their skin and parents may notice that their children have body odor. Underarm and pubic hair growth may occur in some ten year olds. Whether or not your child is experiencing some or all of these physical changes, parents should expect some of their child’s peers to be going through them. It is important for parents to discuss these changes with their child and to emphasize that children grow at different rates and that there is nothing wrong with what is or isn’t happening to their bodies at any given time. 

Emotional Development

As a result of the disparity in physical development at this age, ten year old children will become more aware of their physiological differences and may become self conscious as a result. According to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, which surveyed 4,000 ten and eleven-year-old boys and girls in Nova Scotia, 7.8% of girls and 7.3% of boys admitted that they were not happy with their bodies. The dissatisfaction of girls was directly related to BMI; the higher their body mass index, the more unhappy they were with their bodies, meaning their body image was directly related to their weight. Boys, on the other hand, were more dissatisfied with their bodies if they had a lower BMI, linking their body image satisfaction to being muscular and lean, but not too thin. Ten-year-old children are easily influenced by the messages in advertising, and with the amount of social media and commercials to which the average ten-year-old is exposed, children at this age will compare themselves to the body types that they see the most: women who are thin and men who are lean and muscular. Read more about the BMC Public Health article at Time magazine.

Parents should discuss body image with their children, and encourage healthy eating habits and active lifestyles to promote a healthy weight and body image. Children are also extremely sensitive to what they hear at home from their parents; all family members should be wary of complaining about their bodies in front of children at this age. Ten-year-olds who often hear the adults and siblings they admire speaking negatively about their bodies may imitate those behaviors in an effort to be more grown up. Children may also begin to hear their peers speak negatively about their bodies and the bodies of others, and may witness or be victim to bullying as a result. If you suspect your child is affected by bullying in anyway, you should reach out to their teachers and principal. Read more about bullying.

Children at this age start to develop more complex emotional relationships with peers of the same sex, and they may begin to express interest in “dating” children of the opposite sex. Dating at this age is not serious, usually consisting of sitting together at lunch or playing together at recess for a few days, and generally does not include hand-holding or communicating outside of school activities. Encourage your child to spend time with their same-sex friends, and if your child talks about liking or dating another child, talk with them about what dating means at their age. Parents should try to have open conversations on a daily basis about their relationships with other children and their monitor internet and phone use, if applicable. Ten-year-olds are still innocent in many ways, and allowing them to date or like a boy or girl of their age can be a healthy way to learn about relationships, respect, and conflict, if handled appropriately. Parent involvement and open communication will help to set the stage for later on; when children begin to date more seriously in their teen years, they will be used to discussing their relationships with their parents. 

Health and Fitness

Ten-year-old children still need plenty of sleep, as their bodies are rapidly growing and changing. Children between ages seven and twelve typically need ten to eleven hours of sleep, though many children by age ten are only sleeping for nine hours a night. Bedtimes will vary based on each families’ schedule, but the average ten year old goes to bed around 9 p.m. and sleeps until 7 or 8 a.m. Children may complain that other kids their age get to stay up later, so it is important for parents to establish schedules and discuss the importance of getting enough sleep, while reminding them that each family is different and what works for one family does not necessarily work for theirs.

Children of all ages need a well-balanced diet, and ten-year-olds are no exception. Healthy eating habits are a learned behavior, and children who have been exposed to a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and limited fats and sugars throughout their lives will continue to make healthy choices as they enter middle childhood. Children with diets high in fats and sugars are less likely to make healthy choices when they are away from home and are at a higher risk to be overweight or obese. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 17.1% of children and adolescents between the ages of two and nineteen are overweight and the number of overweight children and adolescents ages six to nineteen has nearly tripled since 40 years ago. Overweight children are also much more likely to be overweight as adults.

While poor eating habits are a contributing factor to the rise in obesity in children, one of the biggest contributors is a sedentary lifestyle. Too much time spent watching television or playing video games can take away from time spent exercising, and ten-year-old children should be getting at least one hour of exercise three days per week. Parents should limit the amount of fast food and foods high in fat and sugars their children eat and encourage regular physical activity. Ten-year-old children have more developed motor skills and hand-eye coordination and better balance, making activities like bike-riding, running, and team sports more enjoyable for them. Limit time spent playing video games and watching television to no more than 1-2 hours per day, and monitor the games and programs your child views, ensuring that they are appropriate for their age.

Behavioral Development

Children can begin helping out with chores as young as two-years-old, and as they grow older, they are capable of taking on greater responsibility and more complex chores. Ten-year-old children, with their growing desire to be more independent, should be provided with a regular set of chores on a consistent basis, ranging from daily chores like straightening their room, helping to prepare dinner and packing lunches, to weekly chores like folding and putting away laundry, cleaning mirrors and windows, and vacuuming and dusting. Some chores may require adult supervision and assistance, but involving your child in the upkeep of their personal space as well as areas used by the entire family will make them feel like a contributing member of the household, a feeling craved by adults and children alike. Parents need to remember that chores are an opportunity to learn responsibility and develop skills, and that the outcomes of many chores performed by ten-year-old children will not be perfect. Learn more about age appropriate chores for children here.

In addition to more responsibility, children at this age also need to learn that there are consequences for their actions. Ten-year-olds are capable of forming their own opinions and expressing them, and may be more vocal or “mouthy” when expressing their likes and dislikes. As children grow older and acquire more responsibility, punishments for forgetting to do chores, back-talking or fibbing should become more severe. Appropriate punishments for ten-year-olds include loss of privileges for activities like video games, or adding additional chores to their list without increasing allowance for a few days. Restitution works well in situations when a child makes a mistake that involves consequence, like breaking a window while playing ball; try deducting money from their allowance each week until they have paid for some or all of the damage. Time-outs work well for young children, but as children approach middle childhood, methods of discipline should shift from instruction to guidance in order for children to learn accountability and exercise self-discipline when making decisions. Children who learn to take responsibility for their actions at a young age will have an easier time coping with similar challenges later on in life. 

Parents should refrain from withholding food or physical activities as methods of discipline. Punishments should not affect the physical needs of children, but should be impactful enough to teach them accountability for their actions. In cases where children are struggling with their academic studies, encouragement and support, not punishment, should be used. Evaluate the amount of time spent in extracurricular activities, cutting back if necessary, and seek assistance with helping your child to improve in the academic areas with which they struggle. Children may genuinely be trying their best, and punishing them for low grades can cause feelings of inadequacy and shame, when what they really need is additional support. Other factors could be affecting their academic performance as well, like not getting enough sleep or being bullied.

Positive reinforcement remains to be extremely important for ten-year-olds. Even though they are becoming more independent and may want to spend less time with their families, they still need encouragement and support from their parents. Attend their school and extracurricular events as often as possible, and verbally note when they have done a great job or improved in a certain area. Parents should also take care to acknowledge behaviors like generosity and dependability. Celebrate their successes, both small and great, and continue be affectionate with them. Though they may not want to be hugged or kissed in front of their peers, ten-year-olds still crave affection and approval from their parents.