Tween: Child Development (cont.)

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What are milestones in physical development for tweens?

The physical changes associated with puberty may start as early as 8 years of age in girls and 9 years of age in boys. While this early time frame is unusual, it is not uncommon to have the earlier pubertal milestones starting by 11 years of age. A moderate percentage of late tweens may develop body odor, an increase in sweat rate, and an increase in skin oils which may be associated with early acne.

Physical skills development in this age group underscores the neurologic ability to master complex integration of upper- and lower-extremity reciprocal actions. Competitive swimming and tennis require such a refined skill set. Likewise, the refinement of depth perception and visual anticipation becomes increasingly obvious when watching baseball, basketball, or soccer athletic matches. The ability to predict where the ball will be is paramount as skill level matures. For some children, however, it may become obvious that all athletes are not created equal and parental encouragement and exploring nontraditional sports (golf, martial arts, and distance running) are worthwhile.

What are tips for parents caring for a preteen?

The 9- to 11-year-old child is still emotionally dependent upon his parents. As such, parents maintain the status of a role-model figure. Healthy nutritional choices and an active lifestyle are very often reflected in children's choices of food and activities. If the parent's weekend is spent on the couch munching chips and dip, it is not surprising that children may withdraw from outdoor activities and spend an excessive amount of time watching TV or engaging in computer games. The tremendous increase in fast-food consumption and reduction in vigorous physical activity is linked to the obesity epidemic in both children and adults. A recent study indicates that if the obesity epidemic continues unabated, one in three children will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. The individual and social/economic implications of such a development would be monumental.

Tweens are emotionally linked to their peers with a strong emphasis on "group think" - to be accepted implies being like your peers. The early understanding, "Soon I will be a teenager," and all that it implies, will appear on the horizon between 10 and 11 years of age. Conversely, the teenager's need to be independent of family has not yet developed. As such, children 9 to 11 years of age should be encouraged to participate in group events that benefit the common good. A social obligation for service to others should be discussed and practiced. Church groups, volunteer organizations, and scouting experiences all provide such an opportunity. Similarly, participation in family activities and individual responsibilities for the betterment of the family (such as chores) should also become part of a routine lifestyle. Children between 9 to 11 years of age are generally less egocentric than when they were younger and as such should find gratification and pleasure helping others.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2014

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