How to Have That Talk With Your Son—Without Dying of Embarrassment
Finally, it’s a little easier to bring up the birds and bees with your boys.
When it comes to initiating that awkward but necessary discussion about puberty with your kids, there has always been a sense of urgency about girls: You definitely want to tell your daughter about getting her period well before she gets it. But when and how do you talk to your boys?
“For many parents, and even in middle school health classes, it doesn’t seem as urgent to discuss puberty with boys, because the changes they undergo are considered admirable—a deeper voice, body hair, even sweating more,” says parenting expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, a mom of four boys and author of Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! “The focus for boys is usually more on what not to do—don’t drink, don’t get a girl pregnant—than it is on how to actually manage these changes.”
But every parent should start talking with their children—of both genders—about what will happen with their bodies well before the changes arrive, says Dr. Gilboa. “Start even younger than you think, because even if your son isn’t experiencing changes yet, someone he knows is, and you want to make sure that you are his source for information, not a kid from his class who may get it all wrong.”
Up until now, there have plenty of resources out there for moms who need an ice breaker to have the talk with their daughters, such as American Girl’s The Care & Keeping of You series, which gently guides the conversation about periods, breasts, and pubic hair (a somewhat sassier alternative, Hello Flo: The Guide, Period, will be coming out this October from the company that brought you this hilarious viral commercial a few years ago).
But the puberty landscape is changing. After emotional entreaties from moms of boys, Cara Natterson, the author of The Care & Keeping of You has written Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys, which covers topics like when to use deodorant and what to do if you get an erection in the middle of math class.
And if your kid is more likely to stare at his screen than listen attentively to Mom or Dad discussing things like sweat glands and wet dreams, you can start by watching a YouTube video (check out this one with basics for younger boys, or this new one from Old Spice for boys on the verge of puberty (ages 10 to 12).
Whether you decide to use videos, books, or just the good, old-fashioned talk in the car while driving home from soccer practice (helpful because he doesn’t have to look you in they eye), the best thing you can do is keep a sense of humor when talking about it, says Dr. Gilboa. And don’t necessarily leave the task to Dad—she adds that boys are often more comfortable talking about this stuff with Mom. “You should both be having an ongoing series of short conversations,” she says. “Even if you get just one small fact or detail covered, you’ve made progress.”