Parenting an 11-Year-Old Girl

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

    An 11-year-old girl isn't a little kid anymore nor is she a teenager. She's smack in the middle of the tween stage -- a term coined for the 10- to 12-year-old crowd. During the tween years, a girl might have a major crush on a male celebrity and want to be just like her favorite female star. A tween might briefly consider digging her dolls out of the back of closet but choose instead to check out her look in the mirror.

    Puberty

    Parenting an 11-year-old girl takes plenty of patience and understanding. Sings of puberty typically begin around this age; your daughter might notice hair growing in her pubic area and under her arms. An 11-year-old's first period might still be a year or two away, although girls as young as 9 have been known to menstruate, according to Boston Children's Hospital. A young girl's hips gradually widen and her waist shrinks as she eventually takes on a curvy "womanly" shape.

    Self-Confidence

    Body image struggles can weigh on a tween. It's your job to help lighten your 11-year-old's emotional load. Parents might inadvertently set their daughter up to expect less of herself if they assume that low self-confidence naturally goes with the territory of being a tween, cautions Richard Lerner, the Bergstrom chair and director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. Let your 11-year-old daughter know she is beautiful and that you love her unconditionally.

    Out With the Old -- In With the New

    "Thanks but no thanks" might be the cool reaction you receive when offering unsolicited advice to your 11-year-old. Your daughter might see your guidance as unnecessary, unwelcome and even embarrassing. The opinions of your daughter's peers become increasingly important. Don't despair; you're still a powerful and stabilizing force in your daughter's life. She might, however, respond more positively to your actions rather than sit through a lecture, according to KidsHealths.org, a website published by the Nemours Foundation.

    Considerations

    Dads can support and encourage their young daughter by talking about what it was like to be an 11-year-old boy and perhaps share some encouraging memories of girls they knew at the time. Moms in particularly can help ease the stress of being a tween by sharing a few G-rated stories of their own trials and tribulations they experienced as a preteen. Knowing mom has experienced life as an 11-year-old can help your daughter feel less alone and know that life gets better. Give your daughter a big hug and kiss on the cheek even if she twitches at your touch. Your daughter is in the early stages of growing up but she still needs plenty of love and affection.

    About the Author

    Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

    Photo Credits

    • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images