Focus on the Family

Talking to Your Son About Puberty

Few words carry more awkwardness and confusion than puberty. However, this is the most critical point in your son’s life. Take initiative in leading your son through these physical, emotional, and mental changes.

Puberty. The very word can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest mom and dad. But what makes talking about puberty with your son so difficult? Maybe you’re plagued by your own memories of stumbling from childhood into adolescence. Perhaps you feel unprepared to have these conversations with your son. Or you simply feel inadequate when it comes to explaining what happens during the preteen years.

Here’s the good news: Helping your son navigate his way through puberty doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, God can use you. As a parent, you can guide your son, normalize conversations about healthy sexuality, and ease your son’s anxiety.

When it comes to healthy and biblical sexuality, knowledge and prayer are they keys. In fact, these two ingredients directly lead to reducing stress and smoothing the sometimes-rocky path into adolescence. Accurate information, presented calmly and confidently, can reduce a boy’s fears of the unknown. Prayer can reassure him that the changes he witnesses in his body are normal and natural. The best way for that to happen is for moms and dads to educate themselves about the basics of puberty, including male anatomy and physiology.

When Should I Start Talking to My Son about Puberty?

No one knows your son better than you. Think about the type of questions your son usually asks. Are they generally curious about topics surrounding sexuality, physical changes, and science? Or are they approaching the level of maturity that might warrant a larger conversation about puberty?

As awkward as it may feel for both of you, it’s important to discuss this phase of your son’s life with him. And not just once. It needs to be multiple conversations with plenty of opportunities for questions along the way. The transition from age 8 to age 9 is the typical age and stage to have a significant and positive impact in your son’s life.

Among your son’s age and physical development, you also want to consider his personality in deciding how and when to talk about puberty with your son. Consider your son’s maturity level. Is he ready for conversations about puberty, sex, and sexuality? His personality will determine how he receives the information.

Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President of Parenting and Youth

What to Say to Your Son about Puberty

Overall, you want to communicate with clarity, love, and confidence. But, you probably also want to maintain control over what you discuss when talking with your son about puberty. Here is a possible script for what you can say to begin the conversation with your son:

Son, you know how much I love you. As your dad (or mom), one of the responsibilities God has given me is to prepare you for the future. In the next few years, you’re going to see some amazing changes in your body and in your friends’ bodies.

These changes are normal and natural, and your heavenly Father has specially designed them just for boys. He loves you, He created every cell in your body and He knows you even better than you know yourself!

Common Developmental Changes During Puberty

When talking with your son about puberty, it’s important to help him gain a healthy perspective on the timing, effects, and differences within puberty. The exact timing is different for each person. Help your son understand that puberty is based on the genes he inherited from his family.

Some boys feel embarrassed if they start puberty very early or very late. So, it’s important to reassure your son that if that happens to him, he doesn’t need to worry because eventually every guy will go through similar changes.

Physical Changes

Your son’s physical development will likely make up the most noticeable changes during puberty. For some preteen boys, these changes occur rapidly and over a short period of time. For others, the changes can occur slowly over a long period of time. Here are some of the main physical changes you can expect your son to experience during puberty

  • Your son’s body size will increase, including his height, weight, and muscle. Additionally, his genitals will start to develop and grow larger. Usually, the scrotum and testicles develop first. Then, the penis begins to grow larger as well.
  • Over time, your son will start to notice hair growing in spots where it didn’t previously grow. These areas can include his face, armpits, and pubic areas around his genitals.
  • For most preteen boys, puberty brings a very noticeable change in his voice. Usually, your son’s voice will grow deeper. However, he will also experience “voice cracks” which is a temporary side effect of it growing deeper.
  • Because of additional hormones, your son will also start to sweat more often. This can lead to development of oily skin and acne.

Mental Changes

During puberty your son will also begin to experience different thoughts and feelings. Some boys will experience mood swings. He might feel happy one day and sad the next. Reinforce the idea that these feelings and thoughts are natural. Encourage him that you understand he can’t be in control of his emotions all the time. But, you will continue to support him as your family navigates puberty in this age and stage.

  • Your son will develop his ability to think abstractly as well as concretely. Additionally, you might notice that your son will start to think more about the future rather than just the past or present.
  • For most preteen boys, puberty introduces a variety of thoughts about girls, sex, and sexuality. Your son’s new curiosity is normal. However, he needs guidance in learning how to process his new thoughts.
  • Depending on your son’s personality, his interests might start to shift. Often, your son might grow more argumentative or opinionated about topics like religion, philosophy, politics, and social issues.
  • Finally, you might notice that your son starts to compare himself with his friends. For some preteen boys, these comparisons can include physical, material, or performance-based observations.

Talking to Your Son about Puberty for Girls

As you have conversations about puberty with your son, there’s a good chance he’ll have some questions about girls. Mainly, he’ll wonder about whether girls go through puberty too. However, there’s also a good chance he’s already noticed some changes among his siblings or friends that are girls.

Rather than avoid discussing puberty in girls, take initiative in helping your son understand God’s equally important design and purpose for girls. This could also be an excellent opportunity for your son to connect with his mother, as she can explain certain situations in a different way than dad.

Remember to frame your conversation based on how much interest your son shows. Don’t overshare if he’s not interested. But also don’t neglect this opportunity simply because he’s quiet. Here are some things you can consider sharing with your son.

  • If your conversations include the topic of sex, you can describe a female’s role within sexual intimacy. Also, consider how you help your son understand the proper terminology for a girl’s anatomy and genitalia.
  • Let your son know that girls often go through puberty earlier than boys. Also, puberty for girls can be a much more sensitive topic than it can be for boys. If you feel the conversation drifting this direction, make it clear that making fun or mocking a girl for physical or emotional changes is never okay. Instead, he has an opportunity to respect other girls and model good behavior.
  • On a practical level, you can let your son know about puberty changes for girls such as menstruation, a girl’s physical development, and acne.

Encourage Questions

It’s important to remember that one conversation is just the beginning and your son may have questions that come up several times during the adolescent years. Reassure him that you are available and willing to talk about all of his questions—from puberty, to his body, to girls and yes, even to sex. Tell him, “I want you to know that you can feel free to ask us anything about these things. You never need to feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk to us.”

Final Thoughts on Talking to Your Son about Puberty

This is a critical time in your son’s development. So it’s important to address puberty in a clear and unashamed manner. God created you to be your son’s father or mother. With your role as his parent, you have the responsibility to guide and advise him as he grows up.

Unfortunately, too many parents often ignore or wait too long to initiate conversations about puberty, sexuality, and identity with their children. Talking about puberty is at the beginning of the long path of discussing sexuality with your son.

This is the reality. If you don’t provide your son with accurate information about his budding sexuality, social media, the internet and his friends will fill the void. Compared to the truth from the Bible and trusted sources of wisdom like you, those options will fail your son every time.

As you continue to consider how best to talk about puberty with your son, turn towards prayer and wisdom from people you trust. Establish confidence between you and your spouse. Then, take initiative together as you approach these conversations with your son. Remember to pray for God to provide wisdom, the words to say, and the Holy Spirit’s help as you discuss puberty with your son.

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