Your 10 Year Old Child: Emotional Development

What's behind the ups and downs of your fifth grader's emotions

Girls with hair rollers photographing self with smartphone
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Ten-year-old children are on the verge of many changes in almost all aspects of their lives. They are approaching adolescence, and some may have already begun to experience the physical changes associated with puberty such as hair growth in the groin area and armpits, increased oil production of the skin, and in girls, the beginnings of breast development.

At 10 years of age, children are maturing, not only physically but emotionally, and are developing an increasing sense of who they are in the world.

Many are preparing for the start of middle or junior high school, and are getting ready to navigate new social settings.

Body Image and Changes

For girls, who generally develop physically at a faster rate and enter puberty earlier than boys, the transition into adolescence can trigger a host of emotions: excitement, uncertainty, trepidation, and even embarrassment.

Children this age may also begin to place more emphasis on physical appearance and may want to fit in and conform with peers more than they used to. Body image issues can also develop at this age in some children -- particularly girls. Parents can play an important role in establishing a healthy body image by setting a good example. Try to avoid making comments that criticize your own body (such as calling yourself “fat”) and try to set an example of healthy eating habits.

You can expect to see an increased desire for privacy in children this age.

Ten-year-old children are becoming more aware of their bodies and are more likely to want privacy when bathing and dressing. They are also more likely to pay attention to things like clothes and hairstyles and what their friends are thinking and wearing.


Having a strong sense of self-confidence at this age can play a very important role in helping your child build a solid sense of himself, and can help him not only make friends but be better equipped to handle tough situations, such as bullying.

Kids who are self-confident are also less likely to be swayed by others into doing something they don’t want to do, such as participating in dangerous situations or bad behavior.

Mood Swings

At age 10, you can expect your child to have more control over emotions and may see her becoming more skilled at handling conflict and negotiating solutions with friends. At the same time, you may see some volatility in her emotions.

This may partially be due to hormonal changes that are common with the beginning of puberty. Mood swings can change a mostly happy-go-lucky child into one who is sometimes moody or ill-tempered, for example. Another factor that can play a role in mood swings is the stress that a typical 10-year-old may be under as she tries to deal with all the physical and other changes in her life. When you think about it, a 10-year-old child is under a lot of pressure, trying to keep up with ever-more difficult school work, working to fit in and socialize with friends, and dealing with the physical changes of growing up and, in some cases, dealing with puberty. It’s no wonder that a child this age may be moody.

If your child’s flashes of bad temper are fleeting and only happen occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

But if you see a definite behavioral or personality change, and see other signs that something might be wrong (trouble sleeping or eating, or not wanting to go to school, for example), talk to your child’s pediatrician or teacher.

And do what you can to help your child cope with stress. Talk to your child, try some relaxation exercises and yoga, and incorporate some quick stress-relief strategies into his day.

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