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Gender wars

Wow! Your little one really isn't so little any more! So now your child's reached double digits, what can you expect in terms of development?

Well it's right about now that you can really start to see the developmental split between the sexes - the girls are becoming more aware of boys - it's around about now that crushes begin to develop. Uh oh!

What's this all about?

Fear not - fortunately (for the most part at least) - these feelings are not yet reciprocated by the boys. Right now, most boys will still claim to ‘hate' girls, and show very little interest (apart from to scare or tease them).

Don't be too surprised however if boyfriend/girlfriend relationships do develop - there by no means commonplace yet, but typically this year, some children do pair off. These ‘relationships' are normally very innocent, and shouldn't be cause for concern.

Physical development-wise, the girls are also ahead of the boys. Girls normally begin to hit puberty between 8 and 13, and along with this comes the growth spurt that might see them taller than the boys in their age group.

Children of both sexes may express anxiety about their height and general physical development at this stage. Girls who hit puberty earlier may be self conscious about their breasts and pubic hair; and of course, those who've not yet reached puberty might also express concerns too. Likewise, some boys may be worried about the girls over-taking them in height and so on.

How should you handle it?

It's important to talk to your child about the changes which are going to take place in the next couple of years, and make sure that you offer reassurance and support.

Also be aware that these emotional and physical changes can give rise to problems with friendships.

Girls are very emotional when it comes to their friends. They can be very possessive, demanding and jealous. As such, you'll do well to prepare yourself for something of an emotional rollercoaster as girls friendships move and change at break-neck speed. Normally these petty squabbles shouldn't be a cause for concern, but try to make time to talk to your child about her friendships, and offer your support as exclusion from a group can be particularly painful at this time.

Boys typically have an easier time with friendships at this age - as they are normally based on mutual interests - e.g. sport, computer games etc; rather than emotional ties. However, that's not to say that they might not also struggle - so likewise make sure you're available.

For parents this can be quite a scary time as your child becomes more ‘adult' by the day. However, rest assured that your children need you now perhaps more than ever; and they're certainly not ready to fly the nest anytime soon.

They're just spreading their wings a little.

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