Turning 10 is a big leap in a child’s life. There is the big excitement of turning ‘double figures’, and sometimes a glimpse of what puberty will look like soon.
It can be a tough age for parents because it’s when we start to realise we won’t be the centre of their universe forever, as they start to spread their wings and want to be with their friends more. It’s always good to know what to expect as we navigate our way through the different stages of parenthood. Hopefully you’ll fin this information helpful.
NB When reading this brief guide to understanding 10 year olds, please remember that every child’s development is unique and complex and that the information below is a general guide to this stage of development.
Around 10 is a time of a child’s life where you can expect to see a huge range in physical development. Some children – mostly girls – will have started to show early signs of puberty and may experience growth spurts. Others will hit their spurts later and will stay smaller and more child-like for now. Either way is perfectly healthy and normal.
With the onset of growth spurts, children will become noticeably taller and broader. It’s common at this age for girls to be taller than boys of the same age. Children grow at different rates, and it’s important for you and your child to understand that being particularly tall or small doesn’t mean they will be that way forever.
Look out for early signs of puberty as well, such as more oily skin, pubic and armpit hair growth, an increase in body fat and possibly body odour. Girls may start to develop breasts and their hips may widen – and some girls may even begin their period.
With all of these changes happening, or just around the corner, it’s important to help your child get into good habits now, including regular physical activity, healthy eating and good sleep habits. This will help set them in good stead to deal with their tumultuous teen years.
By the age of 10, your child should have developed good gross motor skills, so they should be able to participate fully in sports they enjoy. Their balance and coordination should also be well developed so they are able to ride a bike and perform other activities that require them to remain upright.
Their fine motor skills have also improved lately. They will have great control in their writing and drawing, and their computer game skills will reach a new level too. Around 10 is a great age to introduce your child to playing a musical instrument, if you’d like to do so.
Your 10 year old will continue to lose their baby teeth for a while yet. They should have their adult central and lateral incisors by now, but they still have molars to lose. Molars can be quite stubborn and may create some discomfort as they become loose and take a while to fall out.
Your 10 year old should be able to care for themselves much more now. They can brush their teeth and floss on their own, and they can shower and groom themselves – but you may still need to remind them to do it. They may also want privacy when they’re bathing or getting dressed – this is perfectly normal.
Educational & Intellectual
Your child should be able to read confidently on their own, and may be reading more complex books such as novels for fun. This is also a great age for children to become independent learners, as they are able to look up anything they want to find out – either in books or on the internet.
Your child’s preferences for learning in certain areas will become more pronounced by this age, and you will have a good understanding of what they like and what they are good at. It’s important to encourage them to maintain an open mind and not to tell themselves that they are bad at anything.
This is an age where having a ‘growth’ rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset can be helpful, and this is something you can help them to learn. Rather than thinking they are bad at maths, for example, you can help them to reframe their thinking to, “I don’t understand some elements of maths yet, but I can talk to my teacher about ways I can develop these skills”. This skill will help them in all aspects of their education, and beyond schooling throughout their life.
Emotions & Relationships
For those entering into the early stages of puberty, there can be a range of emotions (sometimes all in the space of an hour!): excitement, fear, nervousness, and embarrassment. Your child may start to care more about their appearance, and what people think of them. Peer pressure can become a bigger issue than it’s ever been before.
This is a great time to help your child develop a healthy body image by talking about how proud you are of your own body because of what it allows you to do, rather than what it looks like. And try not to criticise your own body (or other people’s, especially your child’s) by calling it fat. You can also set a good example by eating healthy foods and getting plenty of regular exercise.
Your child may begin to have mood swings, which can be challenging for them and for you. This will be party due to hormones, but it’s also important to have conversations around what is an acceptable way to express emotions, and what isn’t. It can be overwhelming and scary for a child who has always been relaxed to suddenly feel these volatile emotions, so you can reassure them that it’s a normal part of growing up, and that you still love them. Try not to take these emotions personally or engage in an argument with your child when they are feeling upset or moody.
Teaching your child some relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can help. If your child’s emotions become out of control on a regular basis, or if they start to affect your child’s eating, schooling or sleeping, it might help to talk to your doctor.
The Internet, Social Media and Technology
Your child will probably want to spend more time on computers and devices than ever before. Whether you give them a phone is up to you, but unless your child catches public transport to and from school or is away from you regularly, there is no real need for a phone at this age. Most social media platforms require you to be 13 before you can sign up, so 10 year olds are not legally allowed to use them.
Some children will have convinced their parents to let them get an account regardless of their age, and some may have signed up for an account without their parents’ permission, so there may be some peer pressure around getting onto social media.
The decision to allow your child onto social media shouldn’t be taken lightly, so if you do decide to go down that path, ensure you understand all of the risks, and how your child can use social media as safely as possible. It’s also important to ensure you have all login and password information so you can monitor your child’s use and ensure they are safe.
Your child is old enough to take pride in their work and to do a broad range of chores around the house. They can handle more complex tasks than ever before, including washing the dishes or loading the dishwasher, doing their own laundry, and helping take care of pets. This is also a great age to get your child involved in your household routine, including helping to cook dinner, do the grocery shopping, which can teach them to make good food choices.
It can be helpful to pay children at this age for their chores, which can teach them the value of working and saving money.
Parenting a 10 year old
Lastly here are a few key actions to consider when parenting your child at this age:
- Spend time with your child. Encourage them in what they enjoy, talk to them about their friends, and be there to listen when they face challenges.
- Help your child to develop their own understanding of right and wrong and encourage them to be an independent and analytical thinker by asking questions and respecting their answers.
- Make clear rules and stick with them.
- Encourage your child to be aware of their own accomplishments. Rather than saying “I’m proud of you” try saying “You must be really proud of yourself”. This will help them work hard for their own gratification rather than to seek your approval.
- Talk to your child about puberty and all of the physical and emotional changes that are involved. And let them know you’re there to answer any questions they have.
- Get to know your child’s friends and their families.
- Be affectionate and honest with your child, and try to do a lot of activities as a family.