Your Child at Eleven to Twelve Years Old

Ages and Stages

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School Age Nutrition

Your child's nutrition is important to his overall health. Proper nutrition, which should include eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, limiting high sugar and high fat foods, eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy products, including 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt to meet their calcium needs can also prevent many medical problems, including becoming overweight, developing weak bones, and developing diabetes. It will also ensure that your child physically grows to his full potential.

The best nutrition advice to keep your child healthy includes encouraging him to:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars and salt
  • Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet their growing body's requirements

You can also help promote good nutrition by setting a good example. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise should be a regular part of your family's life. It is much easier if everyone in the house follows these guidelines than if your child has to do it alone. You should also buy low-calorie and low-fat meals, snacks and desserts, low-fat or skim milk, and diet drinks. Avoid buying high-calorie desserts or snacks, such as snack chips, regular soft drinks or regular ice cream.

Remember that mealtimes should be enjoyable and pleasant and not a source of struggle. Common mistakes are allowing your child to drink too much milk or juice so that he isn't hungry for solids, forcing your child to eat when he isn't hungry, or forcing him to eat foods that he doesn't want.

An important way that children learn to be independent is through establishing independence about eating. Even though your child may not be eating as well rounded a diet as you would like, as long as your child is growing normally and has a normal energy level, there is probably little to worry about. Also, most children do not eat a balanced diet each and every day, but over the course of a week or so, their diet will usually be well balanced. You can consider giving your child a daily vitamin if you think he is not eating well, although most children don't need them.

Other ways to prevent feeding problems are to not use food as a bribe or reward for desired behaviors, avoid punishing your child for not eating well, limit mealtime conversation to positive and pleasant topics, avoid discussing or commenting on your child's poor eating habits while at the table, limit eating and drinking to the table, and limit snacks to two nutritious snacks each day.

Feeding practices to avoid are giving large amounts of sweet desserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sugarcoated cereals, chips or candy, as they have little nutritional value.

School Age Growth and Development

The middle to late school age years are times of great change in your child. In addition to starting puberty, his mind will also grow to understand logical and abstract thinking and he will develop the moral standards by which he will live his life. You can also expect him to begin to move away from the family as he develops his own identity and also become more influenced by his friends. Fortunately, this influence is usually limited to outward things, such as hair and clothing styles.

This is a time of growing independence and children at this age want to be considered more responsible. To help foster this sense of responsibility, now is a good time to begin giving your child an allowance. The amount is not very important, but is usually 50 cents to $1.00 per year in age and should be used for special things that your child wants. Managing an allowance will help to teach your child about the value of money and the importance of saving.

While it is also important that your child begin to have regular age appropriate chores (setting or clearing the table, taking out the garbage, cleaning their room, etc.) around the house, these should probably not be tied to his allowance. Positive reinforcement is important for completed chores, and failure to complete chores can be punished by loss of a privilege (TV, video games, etc.). Allowing your child to have a choice of which chore to do sometimes helps with compliance.

Encourage self esteem and a positive self image in your child by using positive reinforcement and frequent praise for things that he has accomplished. Encourage your child to be curious, explore and take on new challenges. Also be sure to prepare your child for puberty and sexual development and begin sexuality education if you have not already done so, including that abstinence is the safest way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

School Age Healthy Habits

You should regularly talk to your child about the proper habits that can help him lead a healthy life. These include getting proper nutrition (eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, limiting high sugar and high fat foods, eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy products, including 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt to meet his calcium needs), regular exercise, adequate sleep (nine hours each night), and participation in extracurricular activities at school and in the community. Begin preparing your child for their plans after graduation.

It is also very important to begin communicating with your child to help prevent him from picking up bad habits, including the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs (including the use of inhalants; especially aerosols and glue; and newer drugs like GHB and Ecstasy which many kids think are safe). Children whose parents talk to them regularly are at much less risk for experimenting with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Teach them how to avoid situations where drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes are present and to choose friends who also choose not to use these substances. Emphasize to them that these substances can hurt him, can make him sick, can cause decreased lung function and problems playing sports, and that it is OK to say no. Also, do not let him attend parties that are unsupervised by adults and let him know that he can communicate openly with you about these difficult subjects. Watch for the warning signs of drug use, including a sudden change in your his behavior or personality, decreased performance in school, or changes in which friends he associates with.


Accidents are the leading cause of death for children. Most of these deaths could easily be prevented and it is therefore very important to keep your child's safety in mind at all times. Here are some tips to keep your eleven- to twelve-year-old safe:

  • According to the latest car seat guidelines, older school-age kids should sit in a belt-positioning booster seat when they reach the weight and height harness strap limits of their forward-facing car seat. The move to regular seat belts should not occur until kids are "old enough and large enough" for the seat belts to protect them properly, which usually isn't until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall (57 inches) and are between 8 and 12 years old.
  • If out of a booster seat, make sure your child is buckled up in the back seat with a lap and shoulder harness at all times.
  • Do not allow your child to ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck, even if it is enclosed. In an accident, children in the back of a pickup truck have little protection from serious injury or death.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet and avoid bicycling near traffic.
  • Practice sports safety: teach your child to always wear all of the appropriate safety equipment made for each sport (helmets, mouth guards, pads, etc.).
  • Teach pedestrian (crossing streets, etc.) and playground safety (including not playing on trampolines).
  • Avoid exposing your child to too much sun (use sunscreen).
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and use flame retardant sleepwear. Have an escape plan in case of fire in your home, use flame retardant sleepwear, and teach your child about fire safety (never play with matches, etc.).
  • Practice food safety: wash fruits and vegetables, do not eat undercooked meats or poultry or drink unpasteurized milk or juices.
  • If you must have a gun in the house keep it and the bullets in a separate locked place.
  • Practice water safety: teach your child to swim, do not let your child play around any water (lake, pool, ocean, etc.) without adult supervision (even if he is a good swimmer), always wear a life preserver or safety vest when on a boat, and childproof the pool by enclosing it in a fence with a self-closing, self-latching door.
  • Encourage your child to brush his teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and have regular dental checkups (every six months).
  • Limit television and encourage reading and storytelling.
  • Supervise your child's use of computers (a child at this age should not have unsupervised access to the Internet), computer games, movies, and know what they have access to at their friend's homes.
  • Teach your child how to dial 911 (if available in your area).
  • Be a good example for your child by always using a seat belt, helmet, etc.

Common School Age Problems

  • Acne: a common problem that affects most teenagers at one time or another. It is caused by oil clogging the pores in your skin. The buildup of more oil and bacteria can then cause their skin to become red and inflamed. It commonly begins during puberty, because this is a time when many hormones increase and it is these hormones that cause your skin to produce more oil. Acne is not caused by the foods that you eat (such as chocolate, soft drinks or greasy foods) or by dirt (blackheads are caused by a pigment, not dirt), and you can't catch it from someone else. It can be made worse by pinching pimples, harsh scrubbing which irritates the skin, certain cosmetics which can further block oil ducts, and emotional stress. Acne usually improves by the time you are twenty to twenty-five years old but can be brought under control sooner with the proper measures.
  • Gynecomastia: It is not uncommon for boys to have some breast development as they are going through puberty. It usually begins as a small bump under one or both nipples, that may be tender. You should reassure your child that this breast lump is normal and should disappear within a few months or years without treatment.
  • Nosebleeds: It is common for children to have occasional nosebleeds (epistaxis). Some may even have as many as two or three each week and while they may be frightening, they very rarely cause serious problems. Nosebleeds usually occur when your child's nasal passages are dry or irritated from allergies or an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Poison Ivy: is a type of contact dermatitis caused by the skin developing an allergic reaction to the oil in the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. The rash typically occurs within a few hours to days after having contact with these plants, depending on how sensitive you are.
  • Constipation: a very common and frustrating problem in children. It is usually defined as the passage of hard and painful stools or going four or more days without a bowel movement. Constipation is most commonly caused by a diet that is low in fiber but can also be caused by drinking too much milk (more than 16 to 24 oz/d), not drinking enough water or waiting too long to go to the bathroom. Initial treatment is increasing the amount of fluids he drinks and increasing the amount of fiber and bran in his diet. It is usually also helpful to decrease the amount of constipating foods in his diet, including cow's milk, yogurt, cheese, cooked carrots, and bananas. Stool softeners may be necessary if these steps don't work.
  • Upper Respiratory Infections: these are very common and include symptoms of a clear or green runny nose and cough and are usually caused by cold viruses. You can usually use an over the counter decongestant. Call your Pediatrician if your child has high fever, difficulty breathing or is not improving in 7-10 days
  • Vomiting: usually accompanies diarrhea as part of a viral infection. If your child starts vomiting, it is best to give them a break from eating and drinking for an hour or so and then start to give small amounts of clear liquids (1 teaspoon or tablespoon) every five or ten minutes. Once your child is able to tolerate drinking these small amounts you can increase the clear liquids to about a tablespoon every five or ten minutes and then larger amounts as tolerated and then change back to his regular diet. Call your Pediatrician if the vomit has blood in it, if it is dark green, or if your child is showing signs of dehydration (which includes not urinating in 6-8 hours, having a dry mouth and weight loss).
  • Diarrhea: a common problem and is often caused by a viral infection. Call your Pediatrician if the diarrhea has blood or pus in it, if it is not getting better in 1-2 weeks or if you see signs of dehydration (which includes not urinating in 6-8 hours, having a dry mouth and weight loss). You should continue with their regular diet but may give 1-2 ounces of clear liquids each time that he has large diarrhea stool to prevent dehydration.

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Taking Your Child to your Pediatrician

At the eleven to twelve year checkup, you can expect:

  • An examination of your child's growth and development.
  • A review of diet and sleep schedules
  • Measurement of his height, weight and blood pressure.
  • Counseling for injury prevention, dental health, and a proper diet.
  • A review of school performance.
  • Immunizations: Tdap (tetanus booster), Meningococcal vaccine (Menactra or Menveo), and HPV vaccine (boys and girls), and possibly the Varivax booster (if your child hasn't had chickenpox), HepB and HepA series - if not already given.
  • Screening test: vision and hearing test.

The next check up with your pediatrician will be when your child is twelve to thirteen years old.