I have a 10 year old. Now what?
August 26, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I need help figuring out ten year olds.

We are taking legal temporary custody of a relative's child until she can straighten out her life. We already have a court date and are in the middle of registering him for school and therapy, so that's all covered. And I have a younger child of my own, so I'm familiar with the basics of childcare.

I want input on what ten year olds need or should be capable of.

What sort of chores can they do? How far in a safe neighborhood should they be allowed to wander? Are they boy/girl crazy yet? What's a good bed time and how do I handle giving him time on the computer?

Is there a site that chronicles milestones we should notice in ten year olds?

Just any advice about kids that age would be awesome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ten year-old, in my experience, think they can do everything but are still pretty limited in a lot of ways. Which isn't to say you shouldn't let them do stuff - they'll surprise you a lot. But limit your personal expectations.

They can do pretty much any chore short of really heavy lifting. I let mine go maybe a mile around the neighbourhood away from the house. Mine isn't really girl crazy but they're aware of it and ask questions. They are just starting puberty though so for our boy he's beginning to get B.O. which means daily showers as opposed to ever few days.

As for computers we limit it to weekends during the school year and every other day during the summer. They should have enough homework to keep them busy after school and then we make them stick to reading during the week as it's too much fighting to given them only 30 min of screen time. Both he and we prefer if he can get a longer block of computer/tv time.

Other than that, 10 is kind of the age where they get past most developmental milestones like younger kids IMO.

Girls are typically ahead of boys at this age in terms of social skills and reading, but that's a broad generalization. Figure out what she likes to do and facilitate those activities for her in so far as you can. At 10 kids can start to negotiate pretty well and have a limited amount of sympathy for the demands of adult life however most 10s I know seem to think they have it pretty tough so be prepared to give on a few issues once in a while to diffuse feelings of persecution.

Anyway, kind of random thought there. Best of luck with a tough situation!
posted by GuyZero at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have no advice, but at the age of 10, my nephew was turning into a WOW-playing, comic book loving little lothario who could safely wander around his Upper West Side neighborhood, admittedly one of the safest neighborhoods in NYC, trying to flirt with women twice his age.

I'm so proud.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have a 10 year old nephew, so my advice is second hand.

He does dishes, vacuums, puts away his own clothes and is allowed use of the microwave but not the stove. He can make his own sandwiches and make kool aid.

He is in bed by 9PM. He thinks girls are "gross" and is an avid reader - his favorite book series is "Wimpy Kid" and he also likes looking at my old "Goosebumps" books. He has a science kit with microscope, which he and his pals think is amazing. He has a (2-wheel) bike and can ride up and down their street as long as he has a helmet on. He's allowed to walk to and from friend's houses as long as they're in the neighborhood (I assume 2-3 blocks away). She gives him a $5 allowance.

He's like a little man. He likes to be spoken to as an adult and wants to be taken seriously. He likes affection but doesn't like to be doted on or 'mothered' much. No kiddy voices or goofy nicknames. He has goldfish and hermit crabs that he's supposed to feed but never does., so caring for a pet may not be a great idea. I've noticed a lot of kids below teen years are like that.

My sister puts him on a restricted internet browser, which I don't particularly agree with. I don't know what it's called but there are several options out there. How well do you know the kid? If there's an established relationship and trust, I'd suggest you monitor internet but not restrict it so that the child has independence and responsibility.
posted by caveat at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Growth and development, ages 6 to 10 years.

Child development guide, nine to ten year olds.

I always love working with10-year-olds. They mostly fall into 5th grade in the US. They are generally still very positive toward adults. Many teachers consider the 10th year sort of a golden year - most kids still enjoy learning for its own sake, still engage in a wide range of play activities, and aren't overly burdened by themselves or their peers with acting 'grown up.' It's hard to assume anything about an individual kid's achievement level, but it's average for kids at this age to read chapter books, to read by themselves for 20-30 minutes at a time easily, to do all the basic operations in mathematics, to be responsible for turning in homework and remembering daily tasks, and the like.

Having chores should be no problem. They should easily be able to wash or dry dishes, set the table, care for a pet, pick up belongings, do homework at a certain time of day, have it checked by an adult, maintain a clean room and a made bed, brush teeth and shower regularly. They may require reminders, but more on the order of 'checking in' - "did you remember to ___? " a whole lot of reminding would signal an unusually messy or distracted kid, or a need for a different and less self-directed chore structure.

10-year-olds are starting to be at the age where, in a safe neighborhood, they can walk to a friend's house, bus stop, or downtown during daylight hours. Go along a few times at first to make sure they know their way around. Make a backup plan in case of getting lost or delayed. Kids at age 10 can use the phone, and should know how to locate a safe person to talk to (if not, they can learn quickly). They may or may not be great at tracking time.

They are too young to be responsible for taking care of younger children for more than a very few minutes.

They are generally on the young side for boy crazy/girl crazy. Sometimes they will playact it without serious interest. Sometimes there will be sexual curiosity. But it's kind of unusual for girls to wear makeup, shave legs, or be overly concerned about weight or appearance at that age. I have seen it happen in certain communities or peer groups, though. There are some influences that can push girls into feeling the need to mature into sexualized young women a bit on the early side. So this is an area to give some thought to - and perhaps provide guidance in. That said, 10 is around the corner from 11 which is around the corner from 12. Some girls will be getting their periods already, and it's very confusing because they're so darn young and it's all really abstract. They'll be thinking about when their breasts might start to develop, and stuff like that. Those questions generally arrive a little bit later for boys. Gender separation tends to be pretty high in 5th grade. That's largely because this is where the maturity gap is pretty strong - throughout the middle school years. The girls start to pull ahead in many scholastic areas - they are more adept at reading, writing, speaking, and a range of social skills, and they start to get taller and more physically mature. The boys, for a while, seem to be staying a little younger. This results in a lot of gender self-segregation and a strong preference for single-gender company and perhaps markers of gender like clothing: sports jackets, pink stuff, purses.

The friend group is extremely powerful. Being accepted, having friends to run with, and having fun is huge. The friend set is pretty influential. If you have concerns about any of the child's friends, you can find ways to discuss those things with them: "Do you think Chris ever takes too many risks?" "What is it that you love so much about Darla?" Just be sure the lines of communication are open, and if you are concerned about any behavior in the friend set, you can sit down and say seriously "I'm concerned about some of the things you do when you're with Amanda" or whatever. Kids this age can make moral choices and need some help and guidance doing so. OTher kids are not old/settled enough to provide fantastic guidance, and belonging means more to them than almost anything else.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

I am not a parent, but my 16 year old sister is the idol of the neighborhood youth (and a frequent baby sitter). From my experience the 10 year old is capable of rocking a fauxhawk, vacuuming the house (on the current floor, can't navigate the vacuum on stairs, but he's a small dude), not interested in the ladies (in fact they are annoying because they keep slowing you down to whisper in your ear... however he does have an unhealthy obsession with Taylor Swift music videos), placing plates in the sink without the finesse required to transition to the dishwasher, take care of his 4 year old brother (within reason), speak fairly coherently (unless there is sugar involved), jump on a trampoline for six hours (his claim, not mine and he looked shifty when I asked about bathroom breaks). They can free range in suburban Maryland for about a 6-7 house lengths, assuming the houses are in window view of their nest. He can prepare his own cold food, but will offer his sandwich crusts to his 2~3 year old sibling (so keep an eye out).
posted by syntheticfaith at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Chores: A ten-year old can make his/her own bed, keep living space habitable (neat and clean might be too much to hope for), set and clear the table, and with help, maybe load and unload the dishwasher.

My neighborhood was safe growing up, but until I was 12 or 13, I really wasn't allowed to do much more than ride my bike around the block alone. Bigger trips to the park were always accompanied by family. The same has been pretty true of any family I ever babysat for.

Make sure you take an active role in therapy and education. If your relative's child is has not met emotional milestones, his/her therapist will know and tell you, and suggest a course of action. As far as school, perhaps an early "parent/teacher" conference should be arranged, so that you can discuss any early academic concerns and positive approaches you can take.
posted by honeybee413 at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2009

Most of this information will honestly come from spending time with Kid personally, and getting an idea of what he can personally handle, because every kid is different. The therapist should also have some good feedback for you about areas in which you might be able to offer more support specifically for this kid. Things will work out OK; at this age, kids are gaining more understanding about themselves and what they like/want, as well as the way they fit into different relational contexts, so he might surprise you in how much he can answer what questions you have.

Social relationships and friendships will be huge, so if he's switching schools to stay with you, consider that the rebuilding of friendships will be a big deal, and try to help him get involved with some activities where he can meet other kids outside of school, too.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:10 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Brief comments from the father of a 10yo girl (K) in a laid-back easy-going household...

Chores: Helping with dishes or loading/emptying the dishwasher. Getting their own breakfast and snacks, helping with lunch/dinner. Tidying their own room and books/toys in other parts of the house.

Wandering: Walks home alone from school bus drop-off 3 blocks away, plays with other kids on our block unsupervised all the time. Would probably let her walk to/from further distances after accompanying her a couple of times. We may look at walking to school with a friend (1.5 km = 1 mile) this year (grade 6). Some of her friends wander further. One in a single-parent family has a cell phone as she is home / out alone quite a bit.

Bedtime: Will depend on your routine and how much sleep he needs. K still needs lots of sleep - during the school year she's in bed by 8:30pm and up at 7am for school. Routine may be key here.

Computer: K is happy being able to use it 2-3 times a week to check email and play online games. She does watch TV / play Wii or Gameboy most other days. Through the school year we do no more than 45-60 min of screen time on weekdays, a bit more on weekends. More relaxed during holidays. Computer is in my office, not in her room. She wants one, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go there yet, and it's not a constant requirement for school. Also I created a limited user account (Windows) as she's really not that good at ignoring pop-ups offering to install nasty software. TV and Wii are in the basement family room so not on all the time when we're eating / hanging out. All screen time is considered a reward for good behaviour. She's actually really well behaved at the moment so haven't had to withdraw it for a very long time.

Girls/Boys. K has had what she calls 'crushes' on a couple of boys, but she's still definitely quite innocent about the whole thing. This varies - other kids her age that I know that are in different schools and different lifestyles (e.g. watching 'older' TV) are much more advanced.

Other: Privacy has recently started to become a bigger issue - wanting her bedroom door closed all the time, being more conscious of her body (wearing a robe to walk the 3 steps from her bedroom to the bathroom). As mentioned above, at the moment we're blessed with good behaviour, unlike some other parents we know with kids this age. We can only hope it continues through pre-teen ... after that all bets are off!

In general, foster good relationships with his teacher(s) so you can find out from them what areas may need work, bearing in mind that if there are perceived weaknesses that some may be real, others may just be because of the difficult circumstances he may have been in.

I'm sure you'll make this work, and kudos for helping the kid out. Feel free to mefimail if you have specific other questions.
posted by valleys at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2009

We adopted a 10 year old (two years ago) and his younger brother is now approaching 10 - they're as different as night and day in what they can handle and cannot. It definitely depends on what they've already seen, done, experienced and tried - as well as the environment they've been in.

The biggest thing I'd advise is to start with very tight restrictions and let them relax (or disappear altogether) once the kid has proven responsible or capable enough to handle the freedoms and once you're confident that they can follow the rules you set.

Nothing is worse than taking away a bunch of freedoms when you realize "aw, crap, he isn't ready for that" - and it undermines a kid's confidence, too. Emphasize that you need him to earn your trust - be where he says he'll be, do what he says he'll do, etc. - and then be sure to give him the freedoms when he's earned them by living up to your rules. In our case, we started with some really tight rules that we relaxed almost immediately (so he could see that we meant what we said about "follow the rules and gain freedoms" before it came to the bigger things!)

Chore-wise, most 10 year olds can do a LOT - you just have to be able to bite your tongue for the first while as they learn how to do those tasks. I'm a big fan of teaching kids about self-care at a young age: cleaning your room, clearing your spot at the table, rinsing your dishes, etc. because it fosters a sense of independence. Chores that benefit the whole family are always good, too, like sweeping or vacuuming or the like. Again, I like to start with those "win-win" chores and add more later - so there's a bit of guaranteed success initially that boosts up a bit of self-esteem.

You mentioned that you've got therapy for him, and one thing I'll note is that kids who have been in an unstable environment can sometimes regress when they reach a new and more stable place. You may not be dealing with a 10 year old immediately and may find yourself reassuring, hugging and treating him more like a younger child initially.
posted by VioletU at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

You might find the foster forums at adoption.com to be helpful. There are numerous folks there who have fostered or have kinship placements of children your nephew's age. I find them a good resource to ask questions of because the posters are already in similar situations.

Good luck
posted by onhazier at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2009

I'm the mom of three grown sons, and the grandmother ofan eight year old boy. Ten is not too young to start helping with meal preparation and it gives many kids a great sense of accomplishment. They're old enough to use knives for cutting up vegetables or fruit. This could be something that one of you does with the kid while the other one does something elsewhere with your younger child.

Working on projects with a kid is great. They open up more when you're working alongside them than they do when you're in their face. You might consider asking the kid what color he'd like his walls to be and then painting them with him. It's a relatively cheap way to give a kid a bit of control over his space. Samll carpentry projects are also good at that age, they can use hammers and nails, handsaws, and even drills.

Any kid who can play a video game or use a computer is old enough to do his own laundry, but do not ask them to do anyone else's.
posted by mareli at 1:27 PM on August 26, 2009

Good on ya!

My bit to add: expect LOTS of posturing and trying to impress, with a child inside still really enjoying kid activities, lots of boundaries, and just generally things that don't mesh with that outward appearance. Epecially if he has missed parts of his childhood to a troubled environment.

And never, never, call him out on the difference between the two.
posted by agentwills at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2009

I would also recommend noting any kind of "lashing out" behavior. He may have mixed feelings (or very clear angry ones, I guess) about his parents being wherever they are and living with relatives. Keep tabs on his grades, his hygeine, how he treats friends/your child, etc. If you see any red flags, check in with him and/or teaches, school social workers, or anyone he trusts. Stuff that might help: Counseling, sports, clubs, a mentor, his faith, whatever. If a behavior persists check out the psychosocial stuff before punishing. Good luck!
posted by ShadePlant at 2:39 PM on August 26, 2009

There is no single set of rulea about 10 year olds - they are unique individuals just like you were when you were 10. He may be immature or mature for his age. He may have been sheltered or he may have been left to his own devices. He may be a brave soul or a timid one. He may be a rule-challenger or one who toes the line. You'll learn by talking to him and interacting with him over time. When I was his age I had been and cleaning my own room, setting and clearing the table, vacuuming and dusting for probably a couple of years, at least. If he's not accustomed to chores these will be new to him, but certainly not over his skill level (unless there's something going on that you haven't mentioned).

Basically, I would try to get to know the kid. Ask what he likes. How he enjoys spending his time. Find out who his friends are, what he likes to eat, etc. Just talk to him. This will help you to relax and will let him know you aren't treating him like some Standard Issue Kid. It will also prevent you from trying to mold him into a member of your family, since he's only there temporarily. Maybe chores aren't the way to go for a kid going through what he's going through. You'll know more as you spend time with him. Also, your own child will likely ease the way if they get along.

By the way, this is a great thing you are doing!
posted by Piscean at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2009

When I was 10 I was allowed to walk around in my (very safe, suburban, residential) neighbourhood for a radius of about 5 blocks if I was alone, or 1 mile with a friend. I wasn't allowed to cross the major 4-lane streets bounding my chunk of the suburb, or go into the nearby ravine unless I was with an adult. And I wasn't allowed out alone after dark.

I got a $5 allowance for chores (vacuuming, sweeping, general tidying of living room and kitchen, and folding the whole family's laundry). I was allowed to use the microwave but not the stove.

When we went to the mall I had to be within a couple stores' distance of my parents and they had to know where I was, so I could duck into the store next to the one they were in, but not roam further, and had to be in their eyeline every 15 minutes or so- as a contrast, when I was 12 and I could wander the mall alone and meet them back at a pre-arranged place and time. My parents would allow me to sit alone on the subway or bus, but in the same compartment as them.

My mom bought a zillion young adult novels and left them lying around the house and I naturally became a voracious reader. It was as if new novels were always just "turning up"- she rarely formally gave me a book, there was just this spot on the stairwell landing with a pile of books that always seemed to have a few new ones (or age-appropriate old ones she dug out of storage).

At 10, I ADORED my 18 year old cousins. Sometimes my mom gave them a little cash and they took me & my other 10 year old cousin to the mall, bought us burgers and virgin strawberry daiquiris and swore in front of us, and we basically died of the coolness. If you have any older teens or 20somethings in your life, I bet this kid would love to spend some time with them.

It's great you're taking him in! Ten year olds are pretty awesome, enjoy him!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:10 AM on August 27, 2009

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