About pre-teen and teenage development

In the pre-teen and teenage years, children go through many changes – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

During this time, children’s bodies, emotions and ideas about themselves develop and change at different speeds and times. There’s usually no need to worry if your child goes through some changes earlier or later than their peers.

During adolescence, your family is a secure emotional base where your child feels loved and accepted, no matter what’s going on in the rest of their life. You can build and support your child’s confidence, self-belief, optimism and identity. Strong family relationships can help your child grow into a well-adjusted, considerate and caring adult.

Physical changes in pre-teens and teenagers

Puberty is the time when your child moves through a series of significant, natural and healthy changes.

Puberty starts when changes in your child’s brain cause sex hormones to start being released in girls’ ovaries and boys’ testes.

This usually happens around 11-12 years for girls and around 11-14 years for boys. But it’s normal for the start of puberty to range from 8-13 years in girls and 9-14 years in boys.

If you’re concerned about your child and puberty, or about any other aspect of your child’s development during adolescence, talk with your child’s General Practitioner. They can reassure you and your child, or refer you to someone who can help.

Emotional changes in pre-teens and teenagers

Pre-teens and teenagers often feel strong and sometimes overwhelming emotions like shame and humiliation. They might know the words for these emotions but still have trouble recognising them when they’re upset. Also, because of brain development, pre-teens and teenagers don’t always have the skills to express and manage emotions in an adult way. That’s why teenagers still need help with understanding and managing emotions.

Social changes in pre-teens and teenagers

Young people are busy working out who they are and where they fit in the world. As part of this process, pre-teens and teenagers might try out new or different clothing styles, music, art, friendship groups and so on. They might also want more independence and responsibility. You have an important role in helping your child to develop their identity and a sense of their place in the world.
Staying connected can be an important part of supporting your child’s social and emotional development in the pre-teen and teenage years. Our video guide takes you through options for staying connected, and shows you how different approaches to staying connected can get different results.

Sexual development in pre-teens and teenagers​

Sexuality is a part of who your child is and who they’ll become. Sexuality develops and changes throughout your child’s life. Feeling comfortable with their sexuality and sexual identity is essential to your child’s healthy development.

Talking with you about sex and sexuality will help your child sort through the many messages they get about sexuality from other sources. It can also help your child make positive, safe and informed choices, now and in the future.

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission