How can I support my child as they grow?
What is growth?
Physical growth refers to an increase in body size (length or height and weight) and in the size of organs.
What is “normal” growth?
From birth to about age 1 or 2 years, children grow rapidly, growing an average of 10cm in length and triple their birth weight in their first year! After this time, growth slows. This is normal, as children do not continue the rate of growth of infancy after the first year.
All children develop at different rates, with no child growing at a perfectly steady rate. Children usually have growth spurts that they go through, alternating with periods of slightly slower growth.
One major growth spurt happens during the time of puberty, which occurs between ages 9-13 years in girls, and 10-15 years in boys. Puberty lasts about 2 to 5 years, and is associated with sexual development, which includes the appearance of pubic and underarm hair, the growth and development of sex organs, and in girls, the start of menstruation.
Talking to children about growth
Children’s growth and development will differ in each individual child. It is important for children to understand that they are healthy and perfectly normal, no matter how tall or short or big or small they are.
Avoid comparing growth amongst siblings or other children – e.g. “Come let’s see who’s taller now!” “He’s younger but he’s catching up with you!” Placing this attention and drawing comparison on height can make children feel self-conscious, and like they are “losing” if they are smaller or shorter. Explain to your children that everyone grows at different rates, and their physical growth should have nothing to do with their self-esteem and self-worth. Focus on your children’s strengths and celebrate them.
Be open to discussing any questions your children may have, even if they might be embarrassing ones, like new body hair or other puberty-related questions. Keeping communication open between you and your child encourages a healthy perception of changes that come with growth, rather than making feel that their growth is something to be ashamed of.
How can you encourage healthy growth in your child?
Good rest – Children should get an average of 10-12 hours of uninterrupted (good quality) sleep per night. Children need sleep to grow, and sufficient quality sleep for their growing bodies to rest and repair themselves.
Balanced diet – Eating a healthy and balanced diet with essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals, will help children to reach their full growth potential.
Active lifestyle – Regular exercise is important in keeping children healthy. Not only is it a good way to combat obesity and the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it also promotes physical development and strengthening of their muscles, heart, bones and other parts of the body.
Should I be worried about my child’s growth?
Parents may worry about their child’s growth and development – but it is important to remember that most children who are short or later in their development are perfectly healthy and normal. Not all children develop at the same rate, some could be late bloomers.
If you do have concerns, speak with your doctor or paediatrician. They will be able to examine your child and see if there is any cause for concern or further investigation.