When it comes to awkward parenting moments, talking to your son about puberty probably ranks near the top. But this is a parenting task you cannot skip.
Chances are, your son will have lots of questions — and maybe some fears — about the changes that come with puberty. It’s your job to make sure he knows what to expect and understands that no matter when and how he goes through this transition, it’s all completely normal.
When should you start talking to your son about puberty?
The ideal time to talk about puberty is probably sooner than you think (or sooner than you’re ready to deal with it!). In general, boys start experiencing the first signs of puberty around age 10 or 11. But it’s completely normal for puberty in boys to hit as early as 9 or as late as 15.
Whether your son is an early or late bloomer, it’s important for him to understand that his timing is totally normal. Explain that different people mature at different rates. And being ahead, in the middle or slightly behind his peers is nothing to worry about.
You can talk about the changes to expect during puberty at different times as your son grows up. For young boys, it may be a matter of giving simple answers to questions like, “Why does Daddy have hair on his penis and I don’t?” As they get older, continue to answer their questions as clearly and honestly as possible.
Signs of puberty in boys
Puberty begins when a boy’s body starts producing and releasing testosterone. This hormone is responsible for the physical changes that occur during the body’s transition from boy to man.
Your son will experience a variety of changes throughout puberty, including:
- Increased sweating (and the body odor that comes with it)
- Increased oiliness of skin and hair
- Acne breakouts
- Penis and testicles getting larger
- Growth of pubic, underarm and facial hair
- Growth spurt
- Voice changes (including cracking and becoming deeper)
- Wet dreams (ejaculating while sleeping)
These developments don’t all happen at once. Reassure your son that the transition will occur gradually — typically over the span of a couple of years.
Giving him some tools to handle these changes will help ease the transition. Keep him well-stocked with things he will need (even if he doesn’t need them quite yet). These may include:
- Facial cleansers and acne treatments
- Shaving cream and razors (or an electric shaver)
How to start the conversation — and keep it going
No one relishes the idea of sitting down with their child for what will likely be a slightly awkward conversation. But don’t let embarrassment (yours or your child’s) get in the way of sharing important information.
Boys are reading, hearing and seeing all sorts of things about puberty, body changes and sexuality. They may be getting information from friends, the internet, social media or movies. But chances are, not all of it is accurate or reflects values you want your child to learn.
It’s best to broach the subject of puberty early and often. And as your son enters puberty, it’s important to not just talk, but also listen. Make sure he understands he can come to you with any questions, and you’ll always make time to talk. If your son doesn’t always feel comfortable coming to you, help him find other resources for reliable information. This could include websites, books, his pediatrician or another trusted adult.
At any point before or during puberty, books can help both of you navigate these uncomfortable conversations. You can read books about puberty and its changes together. Or let him read them on his own and come to you with any questions. This can also help you tackle tough topics that come up as he matures — including sexuality, consent, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception.
Talking about puberty isn’t a one-and-done conversation. Keep the lines of communication open as your son continues to mature. Even if he doesn’t show it, he’ll be glad to know he can come to you for guidance all along the way.