In this two-part series, caregivers can learn ways to prepare their boys and girls for puberty. On its own, the physical and emotional changes that accompany puberty can be anxiety provoking. If understood, children are better able to cope and are more likely to accurately understand what’s happening in their bodies and their worlds.
One of the most important things to remember about puberty is that it occurs in stages, and everyone moves through these stages at different rates, with some developing earlier than others. Boys who move through pubertal stages slower than others are more likely to be teased and bullied. Caregivers should note where their boy is in comparison to others around him. If a boy is being teased, he’s unlikely to report it to his caregiver.
“The talk” about your boy’s changing body should come early, before any change has occurred. Given the messages transmitted through the media about sex, the belief in the optimal man and human sexuality, children begin receiving information early in life. Children also talk and gossip, more than parents may notice. They discuss the information they’ve heard from others (e.g. older siblings, cousins, television shows, movies) and their own experiences. Unfortunately, a lot of the information children receive and share is inaccurate. Parents can correct their misconceptions by educating themself, being open and honest with the child and letting the child know that the parent is open to answering any questions they may have.
Children should also be told that puberty is a normal part of everyone’s life, just like getting teeth. Pre-teens are often insecure about their changing bodies and feel like they’re alone on this journey.
Boys begin puberty by hormonal changes around age 10, typically after girls. They should know:
•Boys get pubic hair and underarm hair, and their leg hair becomes thicker and darker.
•Boys often get acne and start to sweat more.
•Boys have a growth spurt.
•Boys’ penises and testicles grow larger.
•Boys’ voices change and become deeper.
•Boys grow facial hair and their muscles get bigger
•Boys sometimes have wet dreams, which means they ejaculate in their sleep.
Boys tend to have special concerns as they go through puberty. They may ask themself, “When will I need to shave?”, “Is my penis size normal?”, “Why hasn’t my voice changed yet?” They may also become interested in masturbation, a taboo topic, and develop sexual attractions, both of which can arouse feelings of shame and guilt. Caregivers should be aware of these concerns and address them in unthreatening ways.
Along with physical changes come emotional changes. With hormonal shifts, the emotions are affected and your boys (and you) should know that their emotions may be harder to understand and control as they go through puberty.
To help in addressing the topic of puberty, caregivers can purchase books for their boys, including
-“My Body, My Self for Boys” by Lynda Madaras & Area Madaras
-“The Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU” by Kelli Dunham and Steven Bjorkman
There are also videos available that offer answers to growing boys’ questions.
Finally, celebrate with your boy (without being an embarrassment during this sensitive stage). Caregivers can get creative and make a family tradition to mark the beginning of puberty. This tradition may be passed on through generations and will symbolise the acknowledgment that your boy is becoming a man.