Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Height increases at about 2 inches per year. Weight increases at about 8 to 10 pounds a year after puberty so appetite may vary quite a bit. Limit fats, sugars and salt in the diet. Most children drink far too much juice and soda and often drink too much milk. Encourage them to drink 1%, 1/2% or skim milk, less than a quart a day and emphasize water for thirst, not other sweetened drinks. It takes approximately 3,000 calories to put on a pound of fat so an extra 100 calories per day equals 3,000 per month or twelve pounds a year. The habits that develop in this age will often carry on to adulthood. Encourage good eating habits and exercise. Set a good example. You may want to use a multivitamin. If fluoride is not in your well water, continue supplements until 12 years of age.
Development and Behavior
Bed wetting may still be occurring. Please ask us to offer suggestions. School teachers may voice concerns about your child’s behavior, academic abilities, or attention span. We may be able to help you understand their comments, special tests or counseling. Encourage them to read. Make sure they have a library card. Have books available all the time. Be realistic about TV and movies and popular culture. Be supportive during this difficult time of asserting independence but be available to help. Encourage social activities with groups of friends to help overcome one-on-one dating pressure which will appear soon.
Spend more time enjoying the company of your children. Be interested in their school work, sports, hobbies, and friends. Stimulate conversation by conversing with your preteen and teens rather than asking questions which may sound intimidating to them. Puberty and sexuality are uncomfortable topics for family discussion. Abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, “sexting” and unwise use of internet social network sites are all topics for family discussion and rule-setting There are many books which can help inform and be a springboard for conversation if you allow it.
Children pick up much misinformation and are often misled by popular entertainment and advertising. Help them understand the difference between adult activities and childhood activities. Be fair with your discipline. Be consistent. Expect the personality of your preteen to incorporate questioning and critical appraisal of formerly accepted ideas. Cultivate their opinions, have family meetings and explain your reasons for decisions, but set your limits and don’t give up your standards. You want your child to grow to be a responsible adult who makes decisions, lives with the consequences and learns from mistakes. You are your child’s best resource for adult life. Treasure that relationship.
Keep your child in the back seat until age 13 and always use seatbelts! Drowning deaths are numerous during the swimming and boating season. Power tools and lawn mowers are not to be used unsupervised. Teach them to wear safety glasses when helping adults using power tools. BB guns and pellet guns are not toys but are often treated as such. They should only be used with adults and with proper eye protection. Smokeless tobacco is mistakenly thought to be safer than smoking tobacco. That is not true. They both contribute to serious health problems and should be avoided. Passive smoke should also be avoided. Alcohol use is a preteen problem regardless of family attitudes. Dialogue early on may open your child’s eyes to the peer pressure that may loom in the near future.
Bike helmets are necessary. Wear one yourself when you bike. If your child skates or rollerblades, he/she needs to wear a helmet, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads. Trampolines should not be backyard toys. Children abuse them by crowding on, pushing and doing flips. There is a great risk of serious injury including broken bones, paralysis and death. Trampolines should only be used for coached-gymnastics. 4-wheelers and motor bikes should be avoided until driving age, when more mature decision-making may prevent injury and death.
Health Maintenance Safety
Vaccines at this age might include Tdap, MCV4, HPV and Hepatitis A. We recommend seeing a dentist every 6 months. Fluoride supplements are given if you have none in your drinking water. We recommend a checkup every year for healthy children.