If you have children you are one day going to have to face puberty. Both boys and girls go through puberty, just differently. Puberty is exciting, scary and confusing all at once. For boys, their bodies change, their voices deepen, they develop hair and suddenly have body odor. And while we think of girls going through the emotional aspects of puberty, emotions change in boys as well. The following are 10 things you need to know about your son:
Puberty in boys normally occurs somewhere between the ages of 9 and 14 years old, although some boys start a little younger or may not show signs of puberty until after the age of 14. Everyone develops at their own speed.
You’ll know your son has started puberty by the smell. When boys hit puberty, they suddenly develop body odor and it can seem like this happens overnight. If your son isn’t yet using deodorant, it is time to talk to him about hygiene - he is going to need to shower more often and use a deodorant/anti-perspirant every day. For some boys, even this isn’t enough and you might want to look at the men’s deodorant body washes.
You should talk to your child periodically about puberty. If you wait for him to start asking questions, he might already be confused about what is going on. Try to start the conversation before puberty starts. Don’t give too much information all at once, start by explaining some of the physical signs he is going to start to see. Some parents find providing a book about puberty helpful. This can make starting the conversation a little easier.
Boys bodies go through a transformation. Some of the physical changes include:
- Growing body hair
- Growing taller
- Short-term swelling under nipples
- Voice gets deeper
- Increase in sweat
- Muscle growth and a change in body shape
- Testicle and penis size increases
Having wet dreams is normal. It is perfectly normal for a boy going through puberty to have wet dreams. This is when the penis becomes hard and ejaculates while he is asleep. The first time it happens, he might be scared and think there is something wrong with him. He might be embarrassed to tell anyone. Let him know this is normal and as he gets older it will happen less often.
He is going to have sexual fantasies. He is learning about sexual attraction. He might be attracted to girls, boys or both. He is going to be sexually aroused easily and a lot. He might suddenly run out of the room to hide an erection. Let him know that as he matures, he will be more in control of erections and sexual arousal.
Boys have emotional swings during puberty just like girls. One moment he might feel on top of the world and the next he could be mopey. His anger might flare up for no reason. He might be your pleasant little boy one moment and as irritable as can be the next. As confusing as this is for you, it is more so for him. Be patient with his moods but make sure he understands no matter how he is feeling it is never acceptable to emotionally or physically abuse someone else.
He needs an older male. If you have a household without a male presence, think about other older males your son can talk to such as older brothers, cousins or uncles. Having an older male tell him all these experiences are normal helps. Even if the conversation is one-sided, with your son sitting and listening, it is helpful. It gives him the sense that everything is going to be alright and lets him know there is someone he can talk to should he need.
Puberty is a process not an event. It takes years for your son to get completely through puberty. Some boys don’t go through all the changes until around the age of 20. Your son might show early signs of puberty and then not show any other signs for months or a year.
He probably wants to spend less time with you and more with his friends. Peers and friendships start becoming more important. They want to feel wanted and accepted. They want to fit in. Spending time with mom and dad doesn’t hold the same appeal it did a few months ago. Encourage your son to explore his interests and spend time with his friends while taking advantage of opportunities to connect with him.
Your son might wonder if he is "normal." As his body changes, he might wonder if he is normal as compared to others. This happens more often if your son begins puberty before or after his friends. He might also not be ready to talk about emotional changes and his sexual attraction. Reassure your son that his feelings are normal. Reassure him that puberty is a process and begins and ends at different times in different people. Reassure him that you love him.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.