Healthy Body

Healthy Body and Self Image

Change “happens” to all middle schoolers and your middle schooler is no different. These changes might start with hair growth in new places on their body to unfamiliar body odors and more. Here are some ideas to get your tween off to a healthy start.

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Clean Body – Encourage your child to bathe or shower daily. If body odor is a concern, have your child use a deodorant.

Hair – Your son might want to start shaving his face and your daughter might want to start shaving her legs. Help them pick out a razor that is safe and easy to use.

Eating – Pizza might be your tween’s idea of a balanced meal, and it can be…in moderation. A balanced diet is important for a growing mind. Make sure your child:

  • Gets three cups of low-fat or nonfat milk daily.
  • Aims for five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Limits foods and drinks that are high in sugar and fat.
  • Limits juice to no more than 1 cup per day.

Sleeping. Children this age generally need about 10 – 11 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can make it hard to pay attention at school.

 If your Child Needs to Wake-up At ... 6:00 AM 6:15 AM 6:30 AM 6:45 AM 7:00 AM 7:15 AM 7:30 AM
Set Their Bed Time for ...  8:15 PM 8:30 PM 8:45 PM 9:00 PM 9:15 PM 9:30 PM 9:45 PM

Physical Activity. Children this age should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Make it a family playtime! Get outside for a walk or dance in the kitchen with your child.

Limit Screen Time. Try to limit screen time to no more than two hours per day! This includes TV, DVDs, video games, smartphones, tablets and computers. Excessive screen time can lead to eye fatigue, obesity and general middle schooler grumbles.

Oral Health. Tweens need to continue to brush twice a day and floss once a day. A dental check-up every six months is valuable. Some children may be fitted for braces around age 12.

Ear Health. Listening to headphones or music too loud can cause tinnitus, which is an early indication of potential noise-induced hearing loss. It is easy to prevent:

  • Buy noise canceling headphones so your tween can listen at lower levels.
  • Invest in volume-limiting headphones.
  • Set a safe volume limit in their device settings.
  • Get ear plugs for concerts.

Skin Health – You might start seeing big changes in your child’s skin. Be prepared!

  • Sun Block – You still need to slather that tween in sunscreen. Use at least SPF 30 and reapply every hour.
  • Tanning Beds – Don’t do it. Some states have outlawed tanning bed usage for those under 18. It’s never a good idea. Even one indoor tanning session can increase users’ risk of developing cancer cells by 67% – According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Prevention and Care.”



Need an easy way to kick-off a conversation with your tween about their health? Try the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine’s THRIVE app – in both the Apple store and on Google Play. This free app has an extensive library of teen health and wellness topics relevant to this transformative and often complex stage of life to help parents have important discussions with their teens and young adults. It also provides parents with conversation starters for difficult or sensitive topics; health exams and preventive health information, including vaccinations and well-visits; risk-oriented behavior, such as drinking, smoking or sexual health; social media and more. LEARN MORE HERE.

Welcome to the turbulent time of your child’s puberty. Middle schoolers experience bodily changes, which include increasing hormones. This might make your child behave in unusual ways. This is okay; they still love you. Your number one job is to move through this period with grace. Here are some handy things to keep in mind about this special time for your child:


  • Stick to Your Rules. A growing need for independence means tweens may test the boundaries of established rules. Decide which rules can be eased and which must remain in place.
  • Getting the Blues. Look for signs of depression, which can include irritability, sadness, loss of interest in activities, poor academic performance and talk of suicide.
  • Almost 1 in 3 U.S. students in grades 6 – 12 experienced bullying.In addition, 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools[1]. Talk to your child about how to get help if they are being bullied and what to do if they see a friend being bullied. Being a bystander is not okay for our children.

Are your worried about your child’s mental health? Take this quiz –


Be Ready to Talk. Be prepared to answer questions about puberty and the feelings associated with those changes. Encourage your child to bring his or her questions or concerns to you. Be ready for “The Talk” about sex and relationships.

Talk openly about sex and encourage your child to wait until he or she is older to engage in sexual activity with others. Explain the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancy.

Female Health[2] – Your little girl is becoming a woman; be ready to talk about it.

  • Breast Development – Her breasts can start to develop by age 11. Often one breast will grow faster than the other will. Be ready to support your daughter through these changes.
  • Periods – In girls, the first menstrual period usually occurs by age 13, but it can come as late as age 15. Talk to your daughter about menstruation before it occurs and encourage her to come to you once it does.

Male Health[3]: Your son will have some special concerns; be ready to talk about them:

  • Voice Change – Your son’s voice might change and get “crackle-y.”
  • Erections – Assure your son that erections and “wet dreams” are normal.
  • Breast Enlargement – The breast tissue on young men might get bigger during puberty. It usually goes away after a few months.
  • Testicle Lower Than The Other – Assure him that uneven testicles are normal and common.



Bullying: Statistics and Information.


“Concerns Girls Have About Puberty”


“Concerns Boys Have About Puberty”

Funding for this guide was made possible (in part) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement number 1H23IP000931-01. The content in this toolkit does not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.