The preteen years are generally from age nine through twelve. During this stage, children usually experience the onset of puberty. It's a precarious time because they are not a young child but not yet a teenager. Preteens develop an increased desire for independence and become more outspoken. They become more interested in activities outside of their family and may want to spend more time at school activities and socializing with friends.
Q. When will my daughter begin puberty and what are the first signs?
A. Girls can begin puberty as early as age eight and as late as thirteen. The first sign of puberty is the development of breast buds, which are little lumps that form under the nipple of each breast. The breasts will soon continue to grow and may feel sore at times. Two to three years after developing breast buds, girls will begin menstruating. (In the USA, the average age is twelve.) It's important to emphasize to your daughter that these physical changes are a normal part of growing up.
Q. What is the HPV vaccine and is it important to get?
A. HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus that can affect teens and adults. HPV can cause cancer in both women and men. For women, it may lead to cervical cancer; for men, it can lead to penile cancer. The virus can also cause genital warts and can be a risk factor for other cancers, including throat cancer.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the HPV vaccine be administered at ages eleven or twelve to protect preteens from exposure to the virus. (It can be given as early as nine, but discuss the timing with your pediatrician.) Two doses are necessary, which can be given six to twelve months apart. If the first HPV dose is given after age fifteen, three doses are required. Studies have shown that the vaccine is more effective when given earlier.
Q. My eleven-year-old seems to want more privacy. Is this normal?
A. Yes. Preteens need and want their personal space and will crave more privacy. It will ultimately help them on their journey to independence. As a parent, you may be used to being in control of every part of your child’s life. However, giving them a reasonable amount of freedom helps preteens gain the skills needed to become successful adults. The only caveat to this would be extreme silence from your child or lack of all communication. If this is happening, seek guidance from your doctor.