How to Help Your Son Go Through Puberty

At some point during the tween years, a boy will begin to experience the early stages of puberty. It's an often complicated time during which a boy can feel elated, confused, and embarrassed all at the same time. While parents are often the last people a boy will want to turn to for advice, that shouldn't stop you from participating in a caring and productive way.

Respond to Body Changes

Boy flexing muscle
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Generally speaking, boys will begin puberty between the ages of nine and 14. This can be an especially difficult time for those who start late and have to watch their peers develop muscles and deeper voices and grow facial or body hair years before they do.

The best way to help your child through this stage is not to make a particular fuss about it. Avoid teasing, as this may add to the ribbing your son may already be receiving at school.

This doesn't mean that you ignore the changes or pretend like they're not happening. Rather, it's important to step forward if you sense your son is experiencing any discomfort and to answer questions that he might otherwise be reluctant to ask.

If your child is experiencing delayed puberty, reassure him that he will eventually catch up. By contrast, if he's an early bloomer or in the throes of a cracking voice, accentuate the positive and introduce him to things like shaving or other rituals of approaching manhood.

The more you treat puberty as a normal, healthy experience, the more you will be able to relieve some of the stress associated with these changes.

Help With Hygiene and Body Odor

young boy in the bathroom using spray. : Stock Photo Embed Share Comp France, young boy in the bathroom using spray.
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One of the first signs of puberty is a change in body odor. During this period, a boy goes through a process known as adrenarche in which the adrenal glands will become more active, leading to oily skin and acne. Adrenarche is also characterized by increased perspiration, especially in the armpits and groin, as the apocrine glands start to mature.

Boys undergoing puberty are not inherently stinky. Rather, they've simply been caught off guard as bacteria begin to proliferate in parts of their bodies that were once relatively moisture-free. As a parent, you can help your son by:

  • Introducing him to antiperspirant or deodorant
  • Making sure he showers regularly, paying extra attention to washing his underarms and groin
  • Ensuring that he changes his underwear and T-shirts daily
  • Giving him cotton or other natural-fiber underwear that are more absorbent

Deal With Nocturnal Emissions

Father talking seriously to teenage son (11-13), sitting on couch
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Nocturnal emissions and erections both are a natural part of puberty. You can choose to ignore them, or deal with them in a healthy fashion.

These emissions can occur well before pubic hairs emerge. They are simply your son's body's response to a sudden and profound increase in testosterone levels.

This hormonal change can cause boys to experience sudden and frequent sexual desires along with regular and sometimes spontaneous erections. With the testicles now able to produce sperm, nocturnal emissions are totally normal, as is the desire to masturbate, sometimes frequently.

Avoid showing disapproval or ridiculing these experiences in any way. Instead, explain what these changes mean. Don't press your son on the issue, but let him know that he can come to you for advice if needed. You may also want to give your son an extra set of bed linens so that he can discreetly change his sheets if they become soiled.

2 Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Delayed puberty in boys: Information for parents. Updated June 9, 2015.

  2. Wilke K, Martin A, Terstegen L, Biel SS. A short history of sweat gland biology. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2007;29(3):169-79. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2007.00387.x

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.