If you’re a parent of a boy, whether you like it or not, he is going to someday reach puberty.
If you’re a mom, you might be feeling a little bit out of depth. Aren’t we all? Sure, you went through puberty yourself, so you know what it is like for girls. But how different is it for boys? What changes will happen to them? Is it okay for a mom to talk to her son about erections and wet dreams? Or should this be his dad’s job?
This article will give you a quick guided tour through puberty! It will let you know what puberty is all about, why it happens, when it will happen, what to expect and what to talk about. Plus you’ll know where to find the best books on puberty!
So what is Puberty and why does it happen?
Puberty is when your son will start to change from being a child to an adult. Which means that his body will slowly start to change or grow up. And it isn’t just physical changes that will be happening to him. His relationships with his family, friends, and peers will change. His feelings and even his personality will start to change too.
All of these changes happen for one reason. So that he can help to make a baby. Yes, become a dad!
Which means that his body will start producing sex hormones. They have the job of making sure that his body gets ready to make sperm and to be fertile.
So when will things start to happen?
Luckily, puberty doesn’t happen overnight. Which means that your son (and you) will have enough time to get used to everything.
Everyone is different and some boys will start puberty sooner (or later) than their friends will.
For boys, puberty will start anytime between the ages of 9 to 15.
Whoah! I know that sounds young but for the first couple of years, the changes are all hidden inside.
Which means that you won’t usually start to see any physical changes to your son’s body until he is 12 to 13 years (+ or – a few years). Two years later than it is for girls.
So what should you be looking out for?
It is important to remember that for every boy, puberty is a unique experience and that their body will change at different times to their friends.
So although the timing of puberty can be different for every boy, the sequence of changes are much more predictable. There is a usual pattern of changes that we can expect to see in boys.
Below you will find a rough guide to the changes you can expect and when. Not every boy will follow this pattern, but it will give you an idea of what to expect. Many of the changes during puberty will also overlap each other and may happen over several years. Remember, every boy is different and almost anything can be normal. If concerned, talk to your family doctor.
Some of the first signs that you may see will be:
- Mood swings
- Growth spurt or they outgrow their shoes almost overnight
- Their testicles and scrotum grow bigger
- Pubic hair will start to grow
- Their penis will grow wider and longer
- Their voice will start to change
- They can ejaculate semen and may start to have wet dreams
- Hair will start to grow in other places like under their arms, more hair on their legs or arms
So when should you start talking?
It’s up to you as to when you start talking to your son about puberty. But the sooner you start talking the better. Ideally, you should be talking to your son specifically about puberty anytime from the age of 9.
This means that you have got a bit of time to get him used to the idea of puberty before his body starts changing on him! Kids who know what to expect during puberty, are usually better equipped to deal with the changes that are happening to them. Which means that they are more likely to find puberty a breeze instead of a hurricane!
So who should be doing the talking?
If you want your son to see puberty as a normal part of growing up, it is helpful if both parents can talk to him about it. This way he knows that he can come to either of you with any questions or concerns that he may have about his changing body.
Some boys are comfortable talking about their changing body with mom, and some boys aren’t. Let your son guide you as to what he is and isn’t comfortable with. If you get the sense that he isn’t comfortable, try to involve a man that he trusts, such as an uncle, an older cousin, or a family friend.
And if you are worried about not knowing enough about boy stuff, like wet dreams and erections, books can be a lifesaver. There are some fantastic puberty books for boys that provide them with all the ‘technical details’ about growing up. You can find recommendations for some fantastic books .
So what should you be talking about?
Boys need to know what changes will be happening to them. Changes like pubic hair, larger genitals, and a deeper voice. They also need to know that they will start to have a lot more erections, sometimes when it is least expected or wanted. They’ll begin to ejaculate (have semen come out of their penis) and may have wet dreams.
They may also start to masturbate more often or for the first time, as they start to experience sexual feelings and an interest in the opposite (or same) sex. This is the age where sex takes on a new meaning. Puberty rewires the brain to start thinking about sex as something that they will want to do. Don’t forget to talk about what sexual behaviors and attitudes are okay, and not okay, in your family.
Boys also need to know that girls will be going through puberty too. Most of the changes for girls are the same but some, like periods and breasts, are different.
Most importantly, your son needs to know that he is normal. During puberty, there are a lot of changes happening to his body, brain, and emotions that can make him feel different. So make sure he knows that he can always come and talk to you about anything. No matter how embarrassing it might be!
But how do I get started?
‘The talk’ that we might have received as kids ourselves, is no longer the recommended approach for parents. Today it is about having many short conversations about puberty that you keep on repeating. You start off with the basics and slowly keep on adding more details as your son gets older and more interested in the topic.
Kids are usually only interested in learning about stuff that is relevant. So you can tell them that about contraception when they are 10 or 11, but they won’t be interested in the details until it is relevant ie when they are ready to start thinking about having sex themselves.
It is the same for us moms! You probably had no interest in pain relief options during labor until you fell pregnant with your first born! And then, all of a sudden, it became a topic that you wanted to learn lots about. Our kids are the same. So you need to talk to your son in an everyday way! You might buy a book on puberty and suggest to him that you read it together that night. You might ask him if he knows anything about puberty. Or if his friends ever talk about puberty amongst themselves.
There are lots of different ways that you can talk to your son and a whole lot of different things to talk about. Try to talk about the changes that are happening now as well as the ones to come.
Just remember, you don’t need to talk to your son about everything. The fact that you are talking to him is much more important than what you say. By talking about puberty, you’re actually letting him know that he can turn to you for support, guidance, and information during this important stage of his life.
Need some extra help?
It is easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of talking about puberty with your son. A lot of parents feel the same way. There is an awful lot of stuff that you can talk about! And where do you start?
The book, Boy Puberty: How to talk about puberty and sex with your tween boy, was written to help parents to get started with talking about puberty. It tells parents everything they need to discuss and how to start talking about it.
Also, check out this round up on Puberty Books for Boys.