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Children usually move in natural, predictable steps as they grow and develop language, cognitive, social, and sensory and motor skills. But each child gains skills at their own pace. It's common for a child to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.
At routine checkups, your child's doctor will check for milestones. This is to make sure that your child is growing and developing as they should. Your doctor can help you know what milestones to watch for as your child gets older. Or you can look for sources of information and support nearby. Public health clinics, parent groups, and child development programs may help. Knowing what to expect can help you spot problems early. And it can help you feel better about how your child is doing.
Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your child's health, growth, or behaviour. Do this even if you aren't sure what worries you.
Your relationship with your child will change as your child gains new skills and develops independence. As your child's world gets bigger, you can help your child grow in healthy ways. Here are a few things you can do. Spend time together. Be a good role model. Show your child love and affection.
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The ages 11 through 14 years are often referred to as early adolescence. These years are an exciting time of many changes. Your child grows taller and stronger and also starts to feel and think in more mature ways. You may feel amazed as you watch your child start to turn into an adult. But this can be a confusing time for both kids and parents. Both must get used to the new person the child is becoming.
Each adolescent develops at their own pace. In general, a child grows and changes in four main areas:
Adolescence is a time of change throughout the body. Growth spurts usually start around ages 11 to 13. A growth spurt comes before or at the same time as puberty. The doctor may track your child's height and weight using a growth chart. Puberty is when sex characteristics begin to develop. Pubic hair grows. In females, breasts begin to develop and periods start. Males grow facial hair. It's important to reassure your child that these physical changes are normal, whether they occur earlier or later than average. These changes may cause distress for a child whose body doesn't match with their gender identity.
Children this age typically focus on the present. But they are starting to understand that what they do now can have long-term effects. Even so, they often don't accept that they can be personally affected by them. For example, adolescents may know that too much sun exposure can cause premature aging and skin cancer. But they may not accept that this can happen to them. They're also starting to see that some issues aren't clear-cut and that information can be interpreted in different ways.
As they start to move from childhood into adulthood, adolescents feel the urge to be more independent from their families. When at home, adolescents may prefer to spend time alone rather than being part of the family. Often they prefer being with friends, and friends may replace parents as a source of advice. Make sure to include your child in family events even if they resist. Family activities help adolescents form a strong sense of self. This is especially important at a time when puberty can have an impact on their self-image.
Children this age may be a little awkward or clumsy. Their brains need time to adjust to longer limbs and bigger bodies. Getting regular moderate exercise can improve coordination. It can also help your child build healthy habits.
The years 11 through 14 are exciting and confusing. Many parents have concerns about how their children will handle the many physical and emotional changes that usually happen during this time. Some common concerns include:
You have an influence during these years. Talk openly with your child. Be positive and provide clear, fair, and consistent rules. You have a big influence on your adolescent's habits and attitudes, choices, and adjustments to physical changes. But realize that your child's way of doing things doesn't have to exactly match yours.
Help your child to identify important issues and to prepare for more responsibilities. Give your child the freedom to figure things out in their own way within the boundaries you have set. Parents walk a fine line between respecting a child's need for independence and privacy and making sure that the child doesn't make mistakes that have lifelong consequences.
Support your child in making healthy choices by talking about what things make it easier or harder to eat well.
Exercise helps your child feel good, have a healthy heart, and have a healthy weight. If your child isn't used to exercise, encourage light to moderate exercise, such as walking, at first. Have your child take breaks from computer, cell phone, and TV use and be active instead. Limit TV, video games, and computer time.
Help your adolescent recognize that the media often produce unrealistic and unattainable images of the ideal body. Stress the importance of being healthy, rather than focusing on looks. Be aware of the things you say about how you and other people look.
Rapidly growing and busy adolescents need a lot of sleep. Starting sometime in adolescence, your child's natural sleeping pattern may gradually shift. Many adolescents start going to bed later at night and sleeping in. This pattern can make it hard to get up for school. To help your child get enough rest, discourage phone and computer use and TV-watching after a certain evening hour.
If you believe that your adolescent is using drugs or alcohol, talk with them about it. Discuss how your child gets the alcohol, tobacco, or drugs and in what kind of setting they are used. Seek advice from a doctor if the behaviour continues.
Building trust gradually will help your adolescent feel safe talking with you about sensitive subjects. When trying to talk with your child about problems or concerns, schedule time in a private and quiet place. It's okay if you don't know all the answers. For example, you may say, "You know, I need to find out more information and think about this. Can we talk about it later?" Then set a specific time and place to further discuss that issue.
Be a good role model for how to handle disagreements, such as by talking calmly. Help your child come up with ways to defuse potentially violent situations, such as using humour or acknowledging another person's point of view. Praise your child for successfully avoiding a confrontation, such as by saying, "I'm proud of you for staying calm." Closely supervise the websites and computer games that your child uses. Talk to your child about healthy relationships. Dating abuse is common among preteens and teens.
Let your child make as many of their own decisions as possible. This includes involving your adolescent in setting household rules and schedules. Talk about current issues together, whether it be school projects or world affairs. Brainstorm different ways to solve problems, and discuss their possible outcomes. Some families give an allowance. It can help teach your child about financial responsibility.
To reduce suicide risk, prepare your child for the emotional problems that sometimes occur between the ages of 11 and 14 years. Offer suggestions on how to handle feelings of inadequacy or sadness, such as keeping a journal, volunteering, and getting adequate rest and exercise. If your child shows signs of depression, such as withdrawing from others and being sad much of the time, talk about it. Get help from a doctor if it doesn't improve.
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If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.
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Your child's doctor can help you discuss difficult issues with your adolescent if you ever have trouble doing so on your own. Keep in mind that important subjects, such as sex, should be addressed long before you think your child will face them.
Talk to your child's doctor if you are concerned about your child's health or other issues. These issues may include:
Call a doctor or a mental health professional if your child develops behavioural problems or signs of mental health problems. Signs may include:
Yearly doctor visits are important to find problems and to make sure your adolescent is growing and developing as expected. During these routine checkups, the doctor will do a physical examination. Your child will get any needed shots. To see how your child is doing, the doctor will also ask questions about their friends, school, and activities.
You also can discuss any concerns you have during these appointments. It may help you to go with a prepared list of questions.
It's a good idea to give an adolescent some time alone with the doctor. This gives your child a chance to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking you. Laws vary about adolescents' and teens' rights to medical confidentiality. But most doctors will clarify expectations with you and your child.
Adolescents should also have regular dental checkups to make sure their teeth are strong and healthy. Your child will be encouraged to brush and floss regularly.
Children need an eye examination every 1 to 2 years.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Susan C. Kim MD - PediatricsJohn Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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