When children reach age 10 they are already on the verge of becoming adolescents. Tween boys and girls (pre-adolescents ages 9-12) will experience significant changes as puberty hits and parents need to discuss these changes with them. Physical, emotional, and social changes are all part of puberty which makes this developmental time fun, confusing, and even risky. So the more informed you are the better prepared you will be. PHYSIOLOGYImportant physiological changes will begin to show in the tween body. Some of the most important sign of puberty are:
- The growth of facial hair.
- The growth of body hair.
- Body odor changes, with underarm odor becoming more pronounced.
- Menstruation can start for some tween girls.
- Breasts in tween girls start to show, and some engorgement and discomfort can be experienced.
- Tween boys can have a sudden deepening of the voice.
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- At this stage, the social unit becomes very important for tweens, as peers and friends become their focus.
- Parents may begin to see that tweens start to find them “uncool”.
- Gender characteristics are more evident during this stage, with boys emulating male role models and girls emulating female role models.
- Pop culture becomes important for most tweens, as they become fans of their favorite artists and follow them.
- Due to hormonal changes, tween girls can become moody.
- Tween boys can show a preference to be by themselves and become silent and appear distant.
- Sexual Curiosity: At this age tweens may become more curious about sex. As their sexual hormones develop, children are eager to find out more information about sex and discuss it amongst themselves.
- Sexual Arousal: The development of sex hormones can also cause children to get more easily aroused—sometimes even involuntarily.
- Sexual Exploration: Although it is natural for children of all ages to masturbate, masturbation at this stage can increase in frequency and become a preferred activity.
WHAT TWEENS NEED TO KNOW It is important that tweens seek the right information regarding puberty and sex. Peers may be eager to talk about the topic but they may not have accurate information to share. Thus, talking to parents and teachers about sex is a better source of information. Tweens may feel awkward approaching their parents with sex questions, but they may be the best resource.
Additionally, hygiene is increasingly important for tweens. At this age, deodorant use should be part of the daily routine for tween boys and girls. Specifically for tween girls, the use of sanitary pads and bras is important to master.
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO DO Parents need to keep the channels of communication open at all times; but during puberty it is especially crucial. Providing tweens with age-appropriate information promotes safety, health, and helps them develop a positive appreciation and respect for their bodies. Parents need not fear having the sex talk with children; on the contrary, an open and ongoing dialogue about sex in a factual and natural way will be the most effective approach to keep your tweens safe.
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