How will my child change between the ages of 10 and 14?
Throughout our lives we grow and change, but during early adolescence the rate of change is especially evident. We consider 10-year-olds to be children; we think of 14-year-olds as “almost adults.” We welcome the changes, but we also find them a little disturbing. When children are younger, it is easier to predict when a change might take place. But by early adolescence, the relationship between a child’s real age and developmental milestones grow weaker. Genes, families, friends, values and other forces in society can affect development.
As they enter puberty, young teens undergo a great many physical changes. Adolescents don’t begin puberty at the same age. For girls, it may take place anywhere from the age of 8 to 13; in boys, on average, it happens about two years later. This is the time period when students’ physical characteristics vary the most within their classes and among their friends.
Early adolescence often brings with it new concerns about body image and appearance. Both girls and boys who never before gave much thought to their looks may suddenly spend hours primping, worrying and complaining — about being too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny or too pimply. Body parts may grow at different times and rates. Movement of their bodies requires coordination of body parts — and because these parts are of changing proportions — young adolescents may be clumsy and awkward in their physical activities.
The rate at which physical growth and development takes place also can influence other parts of a young teen’s life. An 11-year-old girl who has already reached puberty will have different interests than a girl who does not do so until she’s 14. Young teens who bloom very early or very late may have special concerns. Late bloomers (especially boys) may feel they can’t compete in sports with more physically developed classmates. Early bloomers (especially girls) may be pressured into adult situations before they are emotionally or mentally able to handle them. The combined effect of the age at the beginning of physical changes in puberty and the ways in which friends, classmates, family and the world around them respond to those changes can have long-lasting effects on an adolescent. Whatever the rate of growth, many young teens have an unrealistic view of themselves and need to be reassured.
This age can be one of mood swings, sulking, short tempers and a request for privacy. Many
young teens are very self conscious. And, because they are experiencing dramatic physical and emotional changes, they are often overly sensitive about themselves. At this age, young people start to think ahead — which allows them to worry about the future. Some may worry excessively about a number of things ranging from school performance to their own mortality.
In addition to changes in the emotions that they feel, most young teens explore different ways to express their emotions. For example, a child who greeted friends and visitors with enthusiastic hugs may turn into a teen who gives these same people only a small wave or nod of the head. Similarly, hugs and kisses for a parent may be replaced with pulling away. It’s important to remember, though, that these are usually changes in ways of expressing feelings and not the actual feelings about friends, parents and family. Be on the lookout for excessive emotional swings or long-lasting sadness in your child. These can suggest severe emotional problems.
It takes time for young teens and their parents to adjust to all these changes. But the changes are also exciting, allowing a young person to see what they can be like in the future and to develop plans for becoming that person.