How Dads Can Help Their Young Sons Deal With Early Puberty

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Dads often fret when their daughters reach puberty especially if it happens at a young age (I know I did). They worry about the implications of their little girl developing into a young woman. But the reaction doesn’t seem to be as strong when boys reach the same milestone.

Obviously, puberty is different for boys and girls and I think it’s those obvious changes in their daughters that accounts for the differences in parental reactions. Fathers can easily tell when their daughters are going through puberty because of developing breasts and menstruation. For boys, the changes are more subtle – hair growth, voice changes, testicles dropping, etc. But the bottom line is the same – our little babies are turning into adults right before our eyes. And it is a bit disturbing when it starts happening to children who are only 9 or 10.

The trend toward earlier onset of puberty in girls is now generally accepted and supported by extensive research. Until recently, little research was available on the age of onset of puberty in boys. A 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that boys are entering puberty six months to two years earlier than they did in past studies. Overall, African-American boys were more likely to start puberty earlier than white or Hispanic boys. Although we may not like this trend, we cannot ignore it. Our sons need our support during this critical phase of their lives.

I first got an inkling that my son might be entering puberty zone after he was playing outside one day. He ran past me and his body odor nearly knocked me off my feet. I immediately sent him to the showers and started lamenting the beginning of the end of innocence.

Since that fateful day, I’ve had specific and detailed discussions with my son about how his body will change over the next few years. I shared stories of how I coped with puberty when I was a boy. For me, it was a bit more difficult because I was raised by a single mother, and she wasn’t really comfortable talking about these things. I had to rely on books and my fifth grade Sex Education class. I let my son know that there is nothing to be embarrassed about and that he can come to me with questions and concerns. My son, who is very inquisitive, had many questions and still does. I patiently answer them because I know he needs my guidance now more than ever.

Although the changes are mostly physical, there is a huge emotional component, too. I can still remember the turmoil I experienced while trying to cope with bodily changes, homework, siblings, parents, bullies, and what cereal to have for breakfast. When we’re talking to our sons about puberty it is important to listen for feelings as well as facts.

We may not be able to control when our children hit this developmental milestone, but we can control how well we equip them to deal with it.

(For more on this topic of early puberty in boys, see my interview on NPR, “Like Girls, Boys Are Entering Puberty Earlier“)

Stay Strong,

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Join the conversation: How old were your children when they first started showing signs of puberty?

About the author
Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at fjgoodall@mochadad.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mochadad
  1. Great post! Wow and yikes. Touchy topic, I know. My nephew has just started going through this and I’m so happy for him and it breaks my heart at the same time. He’s growing up. So sad and happy to see it happen. My daughter is just now in the very early stages. She’s 12. So hoping the major stuff holds off for awhile. WE talk about EVERYTHING, all the details. I may not be the perfect parent, but I want her to know she can talk to me about everything. No topic is off limits.

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  3. Shelly Ismail -

    I think my girls were about 5 & 7 when we started discussing puberty. I really believe that the earlier, the better. I am just so thankful I have a husband to discuss the boy stuff with our son. I would be at a loss. About 10 years ago, I was given he best parenting advice by a lady that I knew for 5 short years that was like a mother to me. She told me that when it came to matters of the kids growing up and not knowing what to do, you TALK. You keep talking, every single day. You don’t ever stop talking to them. She died shortly after she gave me that advice and I use it on to this day.

    • It great to have wise people in our lives who can give us good, useful advice. We may not always know all the answers, but we have to keep communicating with our children. They need to know that we will always be there to listen to their concerns.

  4. I agree with your approach. Kids need to hear honest answers from their parents. I don’t think you can give them too much information.

  5. Yes, today’s fathers have a lot of work to do. Many of us grew up with absent or uninvolved fathers. We have to give our kids the emotional support that we didn’t always get. More importantly, we have to equip our kids with accurate information so they can have the tools to cope with life’s changes.

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