TV comedies are full of references to “The Talk,” an uncomfortable, one-time discussion about the “birds and bees.” Maybe that’s even how you learned the facts of life. I remember my mom giving me a booklet about puberty (provided by the nice people at Kotex) to read and then offering to answer my questions.
This old-school approach usually came too late in a child’s development to be entirely helpful and was too awkward to invite ongoing conversation.
Lauren Knight is a parenting blogger and a contributor to the “On Parenting” column in The Washington Post. She encourages mamas to take every opportunity to expand their sons’ knowledge of puberty and all the associated changes years before they actually experience them. “Questions deserve answers, openness begets openness,” Knight reminds us.
Information helps ease the transition through puberty just like it does for a family move or new school year. Knowing what to expect makes everything — even puberty — less scary.
As moms, we’re at a little disadvantage when it comes to talking about the changes boys experience as they grow up. After all, we don’t have much experience at being a ten-year-old boy! If you’re not sure what to say or how to say it, do some research and practice your approach. If you have questions or concerns, ask your pediatrician for help.
Here’s some advice for moms trying to figure out the best ways to talk about puberty with their sons:
Be open to questions
Answering questions and having conversations about cooking or tractors or deadly snakes lays the foundation for an open relationship down the road.
Use correct names for body parts
Make sure you can say body parts appropriately without whispering or wincing. This might take practice — it did for me. Even if you have used cute names, it’s never too late to change your language.
Remember, everyone changes at his/her own pace
Remind your kiddo that these changes are all part of growing up and everyone goes through them, but not always at the same pace. Some middle school boys look like little kids and others look like grown-up men. Noticing these differences in older kids might be a good way to start a conversation.
Talk about respectful ways to treat others as they experience puberty. Boys and girls whose bodies begin to change before their peers’ and those whose development lags behind are often targeted by other kids. Help your kid know how to stick up for others.
Be ready and proactive
Most boys enter puberty around age ten. Conversations specifically about the changes that come with puberty should start around eight, giving you about two years to prepare him for what is to come.
Provide opportunities for independent learning
Give your kid books about puberty so he can explore the topic on his own. There are lots of good options. One great one is The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up! by Kelli Dunham — available now on Kindle Unlimited.
Buy deodorant. Puberty brings new hygiene challenges, and your kid will likely need some suggestions about taking good care of his changing body. And not all of these challenges are best addressed by Axe body spray.
Talk about masculinity
Masculinity is a complicated concept. Help your son begin to figure out the kind of man he wants to be by introducing a variety of role models.
A special note for parents of kids who are transgender from Amaze.org, a website that takes the awkwardness out of sex ed: “The changes of puberty can make any person feel uneasy, and a transgender or trans person may feel especially anxious or even scared when their bodies start to change in ways that don’t necessarily match their gender identity.” Parents and families are reminded that there’s no one way to be any gender.
Whatever else you choose to say or not say, reassure your son that the changes of puberty are an amazing and normal part of life. And that while his body is changing, nothing can change your love for him.