Physical changes in pre-teens
For girls, you might start to see early physical changes from about 10-11 years – but this can happen as young as 8, or as old as 13. Physical changes in puberty include:
- breast development
- changes in body shape and height
- growth of pubic and body hair
- the start of periods.
For boys, physical changes usually start around 11-12 years – but this can happen as young as 9, or as old as 14. Physical changes include:
- growth of the penis and testes (testicles)
- change in body shape and height
- erections with ejaculation
- growth of body and facial hair
- changes to voice.
Emotional changes in pre-teens
You might notice that your child shows strong feelings and intense emotions at different times. His moods might seem unpredictable, and these emotional ups and downs can lead to increased conflict. This is partly because your child’s brain is still learning how to control and express emotions in a grown-up way.
At the same time, your child might be more sensitive to your emotions. But while she’s getting better at understanding other people’s emotions, she might sometimes misread facial expressions or body language. So she might react in unexpected ways.
Your child is likely to be more self-conscious, especially about his physical appearance and changes. Adolescent self-esteem is often affected by appearance, or by how children think they look. As your child develops, he might compare his body with those of his friends and peers.
And your child might go through a stage of acting without thinking. Your child’s decision-making skills are still developing, and she’s still learning that actions have consequences and even risks sometimes.
Your child’s body is maturing physically, but his brain development
, thinking skills and emotional development
are happening at their own speeds. What you see on the surface doesn’t always match what’s happening on the inside.
Social changes in pre-teens
Young people are busy working out who they are and where they fit into the world. So you might notice that your child is searching for identity. For example, she might be trying out new or different clothing styles, music, art, friendship groups and so on.
Seeking more independence is common. For example, your child might want to walk to the school bus stop by himself, or he might want to spend more time with friends. Your child might want more responsibility too, both at home and at school.
Your child might be more likely to look for new experiences, even risky ones. At the same time, your child is still developing control over her impulses. This has a lot to do with the way your child’s brain is changing in these years.
Your child is likely to be thinking more about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. He’ll start developing his own values and morals, and he’ll question things more. But your words and actions shape your child’s sense of right and wrong.
You’ll probably find your child is influenced more by friends, especially when it comes to behaviour, sense of self and self-esteem.
And your child might be starting to develop and explore a sexual identity. This might include a new interest in romantic relationships and attractions to peers or celebrities.
The internet, mobile phones and social media can significantly influence how your child communicates with her peers and how she learns about the world.