“How Do I Talk to My Son About Puberty?”
10 Things Parents of Boys Should Know
“Why did my voice crack when I was talking to my crush?!” “Where did these zits come from?!” “Why are parts of me growing and the rest of me isn’t?!” Puberty can cause a lot of confusion and self-consciousness in boys. While there’s no getting around some of the challenges that come with puberty, parents can ease their sons’ discomfort by letting them know what to expect.
But discussing things like nocturnal emissions and growing genitals can feel a bit awkward to some parents, so here are a few tips to having a supportive and comfortable conversation with your son:
1. Decide who will discuss it
Think about who the best person would be to discuss puberty with your son. Fathers are often the go-to, but if dad isn’t in the picture, consider having a grandfather, uncle, trusted male friend, or family doctor to help. It’s important for moms to discuss puberty with their sons as well, but it helps to have a man available for them to talk about the more uncomfortable changes.
2. Break down the biology
As a boy develops into a man, both his mind and body will experience significant changes. If he knows what to expect and why these things are happening, he’ll have an easier time adjusting. Remind him that puberty’s changes take time and he may not experience all of these things at once, but over the next few years he can expect changes such as increased testosterone, growth of genitals and muscles, facial and body hair growth, ejaculation, nocturnal emissions, voice lowering, and body odor.
3. Empower emotional health
Our society has an epidemic issue with boys not knowing healthy ways to understand, process, and cope with emotional challenges. Emotional intelligence is critical during puberty when your son is developing the ability to think at a higher level, establish his identity and values, and build peer and romantic relationships. Support your son’s emotional intelligence by frequently asking about his feelings and by modeling your own healthy emotional management.
4. Don’t make sex a taboo subject
Families have different views surrounding sex, and it’s important to communicate your family’s values to your son. He may balk at the idea of discussing sex with mom and dad, but don’t shy away from discussing it. Teach him potential consequences and explain your beliefs on masturbation, pre-marital sex, safe sex, and unplanned pregnancies. Being honest and open about your values will help inform his own beliefs and encourage him to make responsible decisions.
5. Help him with hygiene
Say hello to B.O.! Explain to your son how he should take care of his body’s changing needs. Describe how he should wash his body thoroughly and apply deodorant. If you allow him to shave, show him how to do so safely. Help him understand what products to use to treat pimples or body acne if breakouts occur.
6. Prepare for the “bottomless pit”
Be warned that the massive appetite increase in teen boys is a very real phenomenon, and you should expect somewhat of an increased grocery budget during your son’s teenage years. In preparation for his growing appetite, try not to load up with junk food and empty calories. Instead, add fresh, hearty, well-balanced snacks to your pantry. A healthy diet will fuel your son’s growth, enhance his mood, and reduce acne.
7. Ease the embarrassment
There are several aspects of puberty that might make your son feel embarrassed, but there are things you can do to avoid humiliation. Knock before you enter his bedroom and make sure he has access to clean sheets so he doesn’t need to ask you for them. Don’t make fun of him when his voice cracks or his skin breaks out. The key to comforting your son is normalizing puberty and not acting like it should be dreaded or shameful.
8. Encourage your late bloomer
Boys go through puberty at different rates, and those who start puberty quicker tend to be more popular and self-assured. If your son is feeling inferior to some faster developing boys, encourage him that many boys experience delayed puberty, often resulting in a rapid growth spurt around age 16 or 17. If you are concerned that your son might have an underlying health issue delaying his puberty, consult his pediatrician.
9. Consider if he needs outside support
It’s normal for your son to experience some mood and behavioral changes during puberty. But be aware of warning signs that he may be having an especially difficult time coping. If your son experiences any of the following symptoms, consider consulting a mental health specialist:
Extreme weight gain or loss
Rapid, drastic changes in personality
Sudden changes in friends
Skipping school often
Talk or jokes about suicide
Signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
Run-ins with the law
10. See a Mental Health Specialists
It can be hard for parents to manage all of the changes and feelings that come with seeing their boy turn into a man. Knowing how to discuss puberty with your son as well as supporting his emotional health can be challenging during this transitional time. A specialist in teen boy issues can guide you in successfully relating to your son during adolescent years.
Dr. Christopher J. Sample, Psy.D. Dr. Sample specializes in supporting men and teenage boys through tough life transitions including puberty and adolescence. Adolescent boys face a variety of obstacles as they develop toward manhood, and Dr. Sample is experienced in helping them adjust and cope in healthy ways.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. Dr. Shinn can help you support your son emotionally, mentally, and academically as he experiences the changes of puberty and adolescence. Dr. Shinn helps families understand each other’s needs and perspectives to build strong family connections.
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