Puberty occurs in boys just as in girls and has a profound effect on the way they view themselves and their bodies. It ushers the boys into a period, the teenage years. This period is a form of rite of passage into adulthood. Just as in girls, a lot of emotions flood into their minds. Many times, they do not know what to do. A guide with the right information would do them a world of good.
What to expect
Sexual and other physical maturation that happens during puberty result from hormonal changes. In boys, it’s hard to know exactly when puberty is coming. There are changes that happen, but they occur slowly over a period of time rather than as a single event. There are certain stages of development that boys go through when developing secondary sex characteristics. Here is a brief overview of the changes that happen:
- In boys, the first puberty change is the enlargement of the scrotum and testes. At this point, the penis does not enlarge.
- As the testes and scrotum continue to grow, the penis grows.
- The first growth of pubic hair produces long, soft hair that is only in a small area around the genitals.
- This hair then becomes darker and coarser as it continues to spread.
- The pubic hair eventually looks like adult hair, but in a smaller area. It may spread to the thighs and sometimes up the stomach.
- The following changes may also happen to a boy as he goes through puberty:
- Body size will increase. Sometimes the feet, arms, legs, and hands may grow faster than the rest of the body. This may cause a teen to feel clumsy.
- Some boys may get some swelling in the breast area. This is a result of the hormonal changes that are happening. This is common among teenage boys and is often a short-term or temporary condition. Talk with your son’s healthcare provider if this is a concern.
- Voice changes may happen, as the voice gets deeper. Sometimes the voice may “crack” during this time. This is a temporary condition and will improve over time.
- Hair will start to grow in the genital area. Boys will also have hair growth on their face, under their arms, and on their legs.
- As the puberty hormones increase, teens may have an increase in oily skin and sweating. This is a normal part of growing. It’s important to wash daily, including the face. Acne may develop.
As the penis enlarges, the teen boy may begin to have erections. This is when the penis becomes hard and erect because it is filled with blood. This is due to hormonal changes and may happen when the boy fantasizes about sexual things. Or it may happen for no reason at all. This is normal.
During puberty, a boy’s body also begins making sperm. Semen, which is made up of sperm and other body fluids, may be released during an erection. This is called ejaculation. Sometimes this may happen while the teen is sleeping. This is called a wet dream (nocturnal emission). This is a normal part of puberty. Once sperm is made and ejaculation happens, teen boys who have sex can get someone pregnant.
What does my teen understand?
The teen years bring many changes—not only physically, but also mentally and socially. During these years, teens increase their ability to think abstractly and eventually to make plans and set long-term goals. Each child may progress at different rates, and show a different view of the world. In general, the following are some of the abilities you may see in your teenager:
- Developing the ability to think abstractly
- Concerned with philosophy, politics, and social issues
- Thinking long-term
- Setting goals
- Comparing himself to his peers
Your teen’s relationships with others
As your teenager begins to struggle for independence and control, many changes may happen. Here are some of the issues that your teen may experience during these years:
- He wants independence from parents.
- Peer influence and acceptance is very important.
- Peer relationships become very important.
- He may be in love.
- He may have long-term commitments in relationships.
Start “The Talk” Early
Today, kids are exposed to so much information about sex and relationships on TV and the Internet that by the time they approach puberty, they may be familiar with some advanced ideas. And yet, talking about the issues of puberty remains an important job for parents because not all of a child’s information comes from reliable sources.
Don’t wait for your child to come to you with questions about his or her changing body — that day may never arrive, especially if your child doesn’t know it’s OK talk to you about this sensitive topic.
Ideally, as a parent, you’ve already started talking to your kids about the changes our bodies go through as we grow. Since the toddler years, kids have questions and most of your discussions probably come about as the result of your child’s inquiries.
It’s important to answer these questions about puberty honestly and openly — but don’t always wait for your child to initiate a discussion. By the time kids are 8 years old, they should know what physical and emotional changes are associated with puberty. That may seem young, but consider this: some girls are wearing training bras by then and some boys’ voices begin to change just a few years later.
Like other living things, human beings reproduce. It’s what keeps the population going. In humans, this happens when the male and female reproductive systems work together to make a baby.
The Timing With Boys and Girls
With girls, it’s vital that parents talk about menstruation before their daughters actually get their periods. If they are unaware of what’s happening, girls can be frightened by the sight and location of the blood. Most girls get their first period when they’re 12 or 13 years old, which is about 2 or 2½ years after they begin puberty. But some get their periods as early as age 9, while others get it as late as age 16.
On average, boys begin going through puberty a little later than girls, usually around age 10 or 11. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older. Just as it helps adults to know what to expect with changes such as moving to a new home or working for a new company, kids should know about puberty ahead of time.
Many kids receive some sex education at school. Often, though, the lessons are segregated, and the girls hear primarily about menstruation and training bras while the boys hear about erections and changing voices. It’s important that girls learn about the changes boys go through and boys learn about those affecting girls, so check with teachers about their lesson plans so you know what gaps need to be filled. It’s a good idea to review the lessons with your child, since kids often still have questions about certain topics.
What to Say
When talking to kids about puberty, it’s important to be reassuring. Puberty brings about so many changes that it’s easy for kids to feel insecure and alone.
Often, kids entering puberty feel insecure about their appearance, but it can help them to know that everyone goes through these changes, many of them awkward. They also should know that the timing of these changes can vary greatly. Acne, mood changes, growth spurts, and hormonal changes — it’s all part of growing up and everyone goes through it, but not always at the same pace.
Girls may begin puberty as early as second or third grade, and it can be upsetting if your daughter is the first one to get a training bra, for example. She may feel alone and awkward or like all eyes are on her in the school locker room.
With boys, changes include the cracking and then deepening of the voice, and the growth of facial hair. And just as with girls, if your son is an early bloomer, he may feel awkward or like he’s the subject of stares from his classmates.
- Kids should know the following about puberty:
- Girls become more rounded, especially in the hips and legs.
- Girls’ breasts begin to swell and then grow, sometimes one faster than the other
- Girls and boys get pubic hair and underarm hair, and their leg hair becomes thicker and darker.
- Both girls and boys often get acne and start to sweat more.
- Both girls and 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 mean they ejaculate in their sleep.
- When a girl begins menstruating, once a month, her uterine lining fills with blood in preparation for a fertilized egg. If the egg isn’t fertilized, she will have a period. If it is fertilized, she will become pregnant.
- A girl’s period may last 3 days to a week, and she can use sanitary napkins (pads) or tampons to absorb the blood.