Boys And Puberty – Helping Your Son Deal With It
What can you do to help your Son through puberty. Gather up as much information you can, be gently reassuring, be a role model by showing body acceptance and supporting a healthy lifestyle. One of the most important points here is to respect your child’s need for more privacy. Be creative in the way you help your son become more independent, while teaching them about self importance, self confidence, critical thinking and safety in all situations while not in your company. Come up with a way to talk openly an honestly with your son or sons in a non-threatening way, cultivate trust between you and them, hopefully this has been going on for a number of years by this time, but if not, sit down and gently apologize for your mistakes and let them know you want to be there for them no matter what situation they get into unexpectedly and that they can talk to you or ask you anything they need to in private. Unconditional love and acceptance is key.
What exactly is puberty for boys?
The physical changes of puberty or secondary sexual characteristics for a boy often start with enlargement of the testicles and development of pubic hair, followed by a growth spurt between ages 10 and 16. This occurs on average 1 to 2 years later than in girls. Boys arms, legs, hands, and feet grow faster than the rest of their body.
At the beginning of puberty your son will notice hair growing around his penis, under his arms, and on his face, chest, and legs. His testicles and penis are also growing. He may develop acne (pimples). Later on in puberty, he will begin to grow taller and his voice will start to change and get lower.
Boys tend to grow the most quickly between the ages of 12 and 15. Their growth spurt of is, on average, about 2 years later than when girls experience it. By age 16, most boys have stopped growing, yet their muscles will continue to develop.
PUBERTY STAGES IN BOYS—
Stage One (approximately between ages nine and 12): No actual visible signs of development are noticed but, internally, male hormones become more active. Sometimes a growth spurt starts at this time. Stage Two (approximately between ages nine to 15): Height will increase and the shape of the body will change.
Stages of puberty. Puberty begins for boys around the age of eight or as late as age thirteen; it usually takes a boy four to six years to completely get through all five stages of pubertal development.
Below is a summary of some physical changes boys can expect to see/experience during these years.
- Enlargement of the Testicles and Scrotum
- Pubic Hair
- Changing Body Shape
- Penis Growth
- What Are These Bumps On My Penis?
- Wet Dreams & Involuntary Erections
- Voice Change
Physical Development in Boys: What to Expect
Puberty – it’s a crazy time and certainly is a long process, beginning with a surge in hormone production, which then causes a number of physical changes. Every person’s individual timetable for puberty can be and often is very different.
Enlargement of the Testicles and Scrotum
Expect nearly a doubling in the size of the testicles and the scrotal sac which marks the beginning of puberty. As the testicles continue to grow, the skin of the scrotum then darkens, enlarges, thins, hangs down more from the body and becomes dotted with tiny bumps. These are just hair follicles. In most boys, one testicle (usually the left) hangs lower than the other.
Due to their testosterone, the next changes of puberty come quickly one after the other. A few light-colored downy hairs materialize at the base of the penis. Then the pubic hair soon turns darker, curlier and coarser in texture, but the pattern is more like a diamond-shape. Over the following few years it covers the pubic region, then spreads toward the thighs.
A thin line of hair also begins to travel up to the navel. About two years after the appearance of pubic hair, sparse hair begins to sprout on a boy’s face, legs, arms and underarms, and later the chest.
Changing Body Shape
A girl’s physical strength almost equals a boy’s until the middle of adolescence, when these difference widen by quite a bit. Boys tend to look a bit more chubby and have long arms and legs compared to their trunk just before and at the beginning of puberty. Then they start to notice rapid growth as they move further into puberty, with the peak happening during the later stages of sexual maturation.
Their body proportions change during this growth spurt, as there is rapid trunk/torso growth, and in their legs to some degree. Boys then keep filling out with muscle mass way after girls do, so that by the time they are 16-18 years old, a boy’s body composition is only 12 percent fat, less than half that of the average girl’s.
A boy might already have adult-size genitals as early as age thirteen or as late as eighteen.
First the penis grows in length, then in width. Boys, during their teenage years seem to spend an inordinate amount of time inspecting their penis and comparing themselves to other boys.
Their number-one concern? size.
Most boys don’t realize that penis size has nothing to do with sexual function and that the length of the flaccid penis doesn’t indicate how large it is when erect.
Anticipating these concerns rather than waiting for them to say anything is a better parenting strategy, since that question is always there regardless of whether it is spoken. While talking to your son sometime, you might mention aloud, “You know, many boys your age worry that their penis is too small. That almost never turns out to be the case.” Don’t be afraid to ask your son’s pediatrician to back you up on this point at his next checkup. The family’s doctor’s reassurance often carries more weight than a parent’s.
Boys’ preoccupation with their penis probably won’t end there. They might notice that some of the other guys in gym have a foreskin and they do not, or vice-versa, and might ask you why they were or weren’t circumcised. You can explain that the procedure is performed based on parents’ choice or religious custom. There is no right or wrong answer.
“What Are These Bumps On My Penis?”
About one in three adolescent boys have penile pink pearly papules on their penis: pimple-like lesions around the crown, or corona. These tiny bumps are harmless, but a teenager may fear he’s picked up a form of sexually transmitted disease. Action needed…..none at all. Although they are usually permanent, the papules are barely noticeable and harmless.
Boys are considered capable of procreation/ getting a girl pregnant upon their first ejaculation, which occurs about one year after the testicles start to enlarge. The testicles produce sperm in addition to testosterone, while the prostate, the two seminal vesicles and another pair of glands (called Cowper’s glands) secrete fluids that combine with the sperm to form semen. There is about one teaspoonful of semen is in each ejaculation and it contains 200 million to 500 million sperm.
Wet Dreams & Involuntary Erections
Most normal boys have stroked or rubbed their penises for pleasure long before they’re able to have an orgasm—in some instances, as far back as infancy. A child might masterbate and have his first ejaculation. Or this event of sexual maturation may occur at night while he’s asleep. He might wake up with damp pajamas and sheets, wondering if he wet the bed. Reassure him and explain that this is a normal part of maturing and calmly change his sheets and don’t mention it where other siblings can hear. This is a time of sensitivity and teenagers are self-conscious about such things.
A nocturnal emission, or wet-dream, is not necessarily the result of a sexually oriented dream.
Other things that are unpredictable during puberty include having erections. They may pop up for no apparent reason—and at the most inconvenient times, like while speaking in front of the class. Tell your son that there isn’t much he can do to suppress spontaneous erections (the time-honored technique of concentrating on the most unsexy thought imaginable doesn’t really work), and that with time they will become less frequent.
Just after the growth spurt peaks, a boy’s voice box gets larger, along with the vocal cords. For a short time, your son’s voice may “crack” off and on as it deepens. Once the larynx gets as large as an adult size, the cracking will stop and so will his embarrassment if your son is a singer like mine.
In the early part of puberty, most boys develop some soreness or tenderness around their nipples. Three out of four, if not more, will have some visible breast growth – this is the result of a reaction in the body that converts some of their testosterone to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Mostly, the breast enlargement is only enough to be a firm breast bud of up to 2 inches in diameter under the nipples. Sometimes, there may be more breast tissue enlargement, resulting in profound “gynecomastia.” Overweight boys may have the appearance of pseudo-gynecomastia – this is due to excess fatty tissue on the chest wall.
As you might already know, this can all be stressful for a child who is trying to establish his masculinity. If your son suddenly seems a bit self-conscious about changing for gym or refuses to be seen without his shirt, you can likely assume that he’s noticed some swelling in one or both breasts. My oldest son wanted to wear a t-shirt while swimming and I knew it was because this issue. This breast tissue enlargement can be tender to the touch.
Boys are happy to learn that gynecomastia almost always goes away in one to two years. There are some instances where the excess tissue does not subside after several years or the breasts become unacceptably large. Elective plastic surgery may be performed, strictly for the young patient’s psychological well-being, however know that this is very rare.
Gynecomastia calls for an evaluation by a pediatrician, especially if it happens prior to puberty or late in adolescence, when the cause is more likely to be organic – from a cause unrelated to puberty.
A number of medical conditions can cause excessive breast growth, including:
- Endocrine tumors
- An adrenal disorder (congenital adrenal hyperplasia)
- A chromosomal disorder (Klinefelter syndrome)
- Liver disease
- Rare genetic disorders
- All of these usually are sorted out and diagnosed by your primary care provider during well child visits or when concerns come up by parents.
Breast development can also be a side effect of some drugs, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, anti-reflux medications, or due to exposure to estrogen or estrogen precursors, including eating soy, and plant estrogen in lotions and/or personal care products, such as lavender or tea tree oil applied to the skin. There may be other possible environmental sources that are under investigation, such as certain plastic containers with BPA in them.
What can you do to ease the process in becoming a young man?
What parents can do to help:
- Explain to your son that this process happens to all boys during puberty and that it will stop as he gets older. Let your son know that a nocturnal emission or wet dream is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by.
Note that masturbation is normal and harmless, for girls as well as boys, as long as it is done privately.
How to deal with hygiene issues—
Teaching Boys Personal Hygiene, So They Won’t STINK!
Let’s be honest. If you are rearing boys, you know about “boy stink syndrome” – that nasty odor that comes from your boys the second they leave the shower (or so it seems)
If my boys go outside, I know I can expect funky smelly kids when they return. But, there is hope. If we teach our boys proper hygiene and make sure they are actually taking action, then we won’t have to hold our noses when they come in for a hug.
It seems that personal hygiene should be common sense. You wash your hands, you brush your teeth, you take a bath…etc. But to a boy, they don’t seem to have time for that? My boys have endless energy and they don’t always want to take time for a bath or shower. But I have found that gentle encouragement and reminders do eventually start to work. Listed below are a few things to teach your boys about to reduce the stink factor in your house.
1. Body Odor
Boys don’t have to go through puberty being smelly. Make sure they are getting cleaned in the shower and tub. When they are young, we need to show them what it means to get really clean. You can’t just get wet with water and expect to get the smell off. Once one of my boys went into the bathroom turned the shower on, got distracted walked out leaving the water running. Then about 15 minutes later I saw him in the kitchen and realized he hadn’t even undressed yet. Sigh! 🙂
Many different types of soap cut the boy smell in puberty, some with charcoal in it, Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus or peppermint liquid soap are excellent. Teach them to use soap and a wash cloth to really scrub the dirt and stink away from their entire body. Make sure they rinse the shampoo out of their hair or it can cause their hair to get greasy and smelly. Using a soft plastic scrub brush on their scalps also helps with getting cradle cap/layers of dead skin on the scalp off. This is particularly common in boys with really thick hair as their scalps don’t get as much air and the dead skin layers build up and smell bad.
Here is the charcoal bar and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap that I make my boys use: here
Once they start to have underarm body odor, have them wear deodorant. Puberty is starting at younger and younger ages and one of the common questions I hear is, “When do boys need to start wearing deodorant?” My answer is, “Whenever they need it.” My older boy was 11 but my current 10 year-old hasn’t needed it yet. There are some books that can help your boys understand their bodies and what changes will happen at puberty, including body odor! These are easy to find on amazon here
2. Brush Teeth
Stinky breath is no fun for anyone. It can make someone feel insecure or make other people not want to get to close. I have my boys use mouth wash as soon as they get up in the morning. Then they brush their teeth after breakfast and before bedtime.
3. Pimples and Oily Skin
Acne can increase emotional stress on teens and can even lead to depression. Encourage them to use a gentle soap on their face which can be diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap and to be gentle with their skin. The skin on the face is thinner than the rest of the body. Although not common knowledge, acne is not caused by a dirty face but by hormones, natural oils in the skin and bacteria. Sometimes over-the-counter treatments like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can help resolve acne, but don’t forget to see a dermatologist or your family doctor if it gets worse or your child is embarrassed or withdrawing from social situations. Once again, charcoal soap has worked well on my son’s greasy skin.
4. Handwashing and Nails
I don’t even want to think about the things my boys or others touch when they are out and about. I feel goosebumps coming up on my skin thinking about it all. I make sure they wash their hands the minute they get home from school or sports practice and have taught them to keep their nails trimmed- this is so that dirt and germs don’t hide there. I have taught my boys to sing their favorite song while they wash their hands to make sure they get clean. I have watched the 3 second “cleaning” before and can tell you that it does not work like singing an entire song does, so as often as I can I ask them to wash longer. I send a little bottle of hand sanitizer with them to use before lunch at school attached to their backpacks. I don’t know if they use it or not, but they tell me do sometimes.
5. Clean Clothes
Do any of your boys like any of their shirts or pants so much that they would wear it and not change it after showering? Well mine do at times. My 10 yr old will often forget to change his underwear for days and sometimes I find a shirt on him that he’s worn for 3-4 days if I’ve been working and not noticing. This is bad enough but when your pubertal son starts to do this, you have a real problem if you know what I mean. Hold your nose please! Make sure they put on clean clothes everyday, because they might not think it’s a problem to wear the same pair of boxers as long as they have showered, however let me tell you it is a problem.
Raising boys is always an adventure and sometimes I think they are easier than my girls, but teaching personal hygiene to our boys is a priority so they can grow to be clean and nice-smelling adults that have an appreciation for cleanliness.
Puberty is a fairly challenging part of life for boys and for their parents or care providers. It’s a time of self discovery and figuring out who they are as young men. But it’s also about having a safe place to land even when the world rejects them, hurts them or gives them an opportunity of a life time. They all need a safe, accepting and loving place to come home to when they make mistakes, because they are going to make a few at least. This is a time for much worry and anxiety for parents often times and for our sons, it’s a time when they feel invincable and don’t seem to understand why we even bother to worry about them. This is a time to gently tighten the reigns not loosen them- that is the take away point for sure.
Hope this was a helpful post. Please send comments below or share any frustrations, joy or stories.
Dr. Leigh Gilburn