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Understanding Your Preteen's Physical Growth

Apr 17, 2008
Children continue to grow gradually but steadily between ages 5 and 10, gaining an average of about 3 to 6 pounds a year and growing in height by about 2 inches a year. Most children alternate between growth spurts and periods of little growth. Boys and girls remain similar in size and body proportions. School-age children tend to look thinner than they did as preschoolers because their entire body size increases while the amount of body fat stays about the same. The long bones in the legs continue to grow, making the legs longer in proportion to the rest of the body. Muscle mass increases during this time, making children stronger and more coordinated. You will notice gradual improvements in your child's motor skills such as tying shoes, riding a bicycle, or catching a ball.

Your child's ultimate height depends primarily on heredity. If both you and your partner are short, your child is likely to be short too. Nutrition and exercise also play a role. Children this age need a nutritious, well-balanced diet and lots of physical activity. Physical activity makes the bones denser and stronger and promotes normal growth. If your child seems unusually short or tall compared with other children the same age, talk to your child's doctor. He or she may recommend testing to determine if your child has a growth disorder.

The first signs of puberty can appear as early as age 8 in girls and 9 in boys (or as late as 13 in girls and 13 in boys). Keep track of the changes in your child's body (while respecting his or her need for privacy). Keep in mind that there are wide variations in the normal pattern of development during this time. If your child is growing more slowly or faster than other children the same age, explain that these variations are normal and all children eventually catch up with each other. However, if you notice pubertal changes in a daughter before age 8 or in a son before 9, talk to your child's doctor. He or she will need to examine your child to rule out a problem, such as a hormone imbalance.

As many children start growing and developing into teenager, it is very important to ensure that you as a parent support them and explain to them what is taking place in their bodies. Care should also be taken to ensure that as you explain to your child the changes that are occurring in their bodies, that you do not embarrass them. If your child is embarrassed, this may cause them to be defensive and not be open to you regarding any issues or questions that they might have. If you notice your child getting embarrassed, try to change how you talk to them. Different children have different ways in which important subject matter should be presented.

Gradually as you talk to your child, you will notice them becoming more and more open to you. As a result of this, you will see your relationship with your child growing day by day.
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