Ten is a smooth stage of development overall, and is sometimes referred to as the “golden end” of childhood. Ten demonstrates a notable shift in flexibility, confidence, and niceness.
The social/emotional life of Ten is complex! Ten enjoys the company of others, including both family outings and peer activities. Ten has improved self-control and emotion regulation than in years prior and is able to more appropriately express their thoughts and emotions. That being said, ANGER is the most common emotional expression for Ten, however, they will quickly stabilize and are typically forgiving. Ten has a greater understanding of social rules and an increased sense of right, wrong, and fairness. So Ten will respond well to rules and instructions, and more confidently advocate for themselves among peers. Example: “you can choose to do that, I know not to” or “ Just because Sally is walking that way doesn’t mean I’m going to.”
It is common for Ten’s to be seeking large amounts of social time with peers/friends, more so than with their family. It is important to provide opportunities for Ten to socialize with friends or engage in group activities. Tens are more open to adult feedback than in previous years, or in years to come, so offer feedback on how to interact socially or build friendships. Helping Ten to balance friend and home expectations is a critical skill for later years. Ten is driven to be with friends so structure some family time into your busy schedule, such as game nights or weekend outings.
Tens fall into the “conformist” stage, and begin to perceive a sense of self as it relates to the peer group sense of belonging. Tens define themselves by their perception of how they fit in to their peer group at school. It is difficult for Tens to resolve problems that are unfamiliar to them. This is where the ANGER comes out often. Giving them a consistent sounding board of a listening ear, helps them to verbally process the problem or ask for suggestions if they wish. Parents, work hard to not suggest unless asked!
Tens will be sassy! You want them to be sassy. They are trying on their assertiveness skills, and shutting it down or shaming them for it, will lead to long term self-esteem challenges and poor boundary setting. We want them to learn how to say “No.” We want our Tens to say “no” when they are teenagers! As a parent, work to remember that Ten is trying on how to express themselves. Encourage them to have a voice, and be playful back. Acknowledging their struggle is half the battle!
Ten and Technology!
Monitor social media, make sure you are “friends” with your child on every social outlet. Beware of “shadow” accounts and discuss that social media is a privilege not a right, and that their choices will dictate how much they get to use their social media accounts.
Children 8-10 spend about 7 hours a day engaging in noneducational media and technology, which is significantly higher than the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics of no more than 2 hours a day of screen time for children. This is the way of the future.
The internet can be useful (and is often required) for homework, research information, and learning games. However, the internet also exposes children to content that is developmentally inappropriate. Preadolescent children often do not realize the digital footprint they leave behind and may not understand the effects of their actions. Educating Ten on technology and the “footprint” effect as well as “if you don’t want me to see it, don’t post it” concept. Have them think about a beloved family relative coming across “their post” how would they feel about it? Helping Ten to ponder through questions versus dictating rules to them, is key to them learning self responsibility and accountability for ALL their actions.
Increased internet access leads to increased access to bullies through cyberbullying, of which you may know little of unless you have access to their accounts, not just devices.
Limit and monitor screen time for Tens. Parental control apps are needed, as Tens cannot regulate their own screen time (their brains have not developed this ability yet!). There are ever-changing apps that warrant concern when children have access to them, apps that allow your child to have contact with strangers, share pictures/videos, and/or apps that help your child hide their browser history. Concerning apps, to name a few: Youtube (vs kids youtube), Tik Tok, Musicly, Omegle (website), Snapchat, Whisper, and Kik to name a few. Remember this is in constant flux, and kids know them before we do!
The influences of video gaming are similar to other forms of technology, with both positive and negative impacts on development. Areas of concern include: inappropriate lengths of time spent playing games, changes in mood, and decreased social contact. Video games containing violence are thought to influence the emotions of older children, particularly impacting emotional hostility, with a consequent reduction in empathy. Increased and repetitive exposure to violence can be problematic for children, impacting on their behavioral and cognitive responses. When we visually see something, our brains don’t know the difference between what is real or fake. Our physiological response is the same, helping all children to understand this can help them to monitor themselves.
Parents should become familiar with video games played by your child, and maybe become players yourselves, to maintain a relevant connection with your Ten. You don’t have to like or be good at it! It is about sharing time playing something your child is passionate about. Learn the lingo, the goal of the game, and how your child problem solves.
Ten’s development of their worldview or ego begins to expand as maturation kicks in. Ten’s moral abilities have expanded, which may present as being “nice” and showing concern for others. A key milestone of this stage is the ability to put oneself in the position of another person to see the problem/situation from their perspective. Children who can demonstrate this ability are strengthening their capacity for empathy and understanding reasons for their decisions, often in the context of wanting to be nice to others and wanting others to be nice to them. Telling the truth is important for Ten as they develop the process of defining a mature sense of right and wrong.
Tens admire their parents and will easily respond to parents’ instructions without resentment, when they feel heard and seen. If these are not present from the parent then ANGER presents, followed by a meltdown. Ten needs to be heard and respected for being them, they are defining their uniqueness. Parents, be careful to make sure you are not demanding respect, as this will backfire, we suggest you focus your attention on listening and validating Ten’s experience. Often with this validation Ten (and most children) will be able to discuss and problem solve choices and alternatives with an open mind.
The academic Ten’s brain is ready for learning. Ten is at the beginning stages of developing the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which typically starts in puberty and is not fully developed until adulthood (between the ages of 25 & 30!) The prefrontal cortex allows for cognitive processes such as: problem solving, memory, impulse control, consciousness, and movement. Due to the early stages of growth in the prefrontal cortex, Ten is likely to experience challenges related to reasoning and impulse control. It is during this time (between the ages of 8 and 10) that the right hemisphere of the brain is growing rapidly, which is responsible for intuitive emotional processes. This allows children to store memories and linked emotions, to use later in apply meaning to their life experiences.
Ten is better at memorization, problem-solving, and logical thinking than years prior and likes to use these skills to classify and organize what they learn. Give them time to tell you about their use of these developing skills when they get home from school. Ten will have increased concentration and attention span, and continues to learn best by doing. Fine motor skills are improving for Ten, specifically in writing and drawing. Ten’s handwriting tends to be a little sloppy as they learn to integrate new writing skills. Typically, Tens are able to draw more realistically, and have a better understanding of three-dimensional figures and distance between objects. They will likely spend great energy using these new developing skills, so encourage this art expression always!
The growing Ten has many changes especially between the genders. Male Tens typically develop muscle strength more quickly than female Tens. Tens have developed the necessary gross motor skills responsible for increased balance, agility, and flexibility, which allows for greater precision in movement, such as running and kicking. Despite increased muscle growth, upper body strength is less developed for Tens and physical activity is necessary to support growth. Tens typically enjoy outdoor free play and engaging in activities that require a mastery of skills and stamina. Tens are organized, structured, and logical, and have a desire to be accepted by their peers, which makes organized sports activities ideal for many Tens as this correlates to their social paradigm as well.
Growing pains come and go between the ages of 9 and 11, as puberty also begins to set in for both sexes. Typically, these aches and pains occur in the knees, thighs, groin, and back. Most female Tens are on the verge of a growth spurt, and may notice other pubescent changes as well (such as: softening around the hips, breast development, increased body hair). Girls experience faster sexual and social development than boys, and as a result have a higher sexual awareness. They may also become more embarassed when learning about sex and puberty. Both male and female Tens are attracted to reading simple books explaining the growth process and birth of babies. Some female Tens will start menstruation soon. Talking to Ten, regardless of gender, about sexuality is imperative. Unless you want them to learn about sex from peers (not the best option), then take up this curioisity moment and provide them with resources, conversations, and sex education when moments of opportune segways occur in conversation. Keeping things fact based, non-emotional, and open is best for a child to learn healthy sexuality from a parent. If you feel you can not do this, seek out a mental health professional to have these dialogues with your children.
When to seek help
Tens are generally well-adjusted and happy and have reached a period of relative stability. Counseling or Play Therapy may be indicated for Tens who demonstrate difficulty making and/or keeping friends, difficulty or dislike of school, or who display emotional and social difficulties.
Remember they are closer to 18 then infancy now and parental focus needs to be on ensuring a healthy connection with Ten, being active in their life while giving them increased freedom to be with friends. Ten deserves respect and to learn to sass appropriately and this all takes practice. Parenting a Ten with a good sense of humor is key to a happy family.
This is from our series "Ages & Stages," Playful Wisdom Parenting will be launching educational webinars for each age from 2-15yrs in March, to help parents know what to expect and when they need to be concerned. If you are interested sign up for newsletter to know when they are live!
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Written by Cary Hamilton & Sarah Moran
Adapted from D. Ray (2016)