Well, I can help out with how not to do it, based on my own experience as a teenage boy.
“Andrew, can you come here for a moment?” my Mum calls from the kitchen, “Owen and I want to talk to you about something.”
The fifteen year old version of me wanders out into the kitchen, blissfully unaware of the horror that is about to befall me.
My Mum and Owen (my step-father) are standing side by side in the kitchen. They look nervous and uncomfortable. I hesitate a second when I see them. “What’s going on?” I ask, “am I in trouble?”
It’s not exactly the first time I’ve been confronted by the pair of them and I’m already generating a list of possible excuses in my head: I didn’t do it... It was already like that when I got home... I never touched Darren, he must have fallen over on his own... It’s only one subject and I already told you the teacher hates me...
Mum takes a deep breath and says “We want to talk to you about puberty... and sex.”
My heart skips a beat or two before my cavalier teenage attitude kicks in. “Sure thing,” I chuckle, “what would you like to know?” Their faces are set like stone. "Oh, you’re not kidding?" I shudder and think to myself: "This is going to be awkward."
“We’re serious.” Owen says, “We want to know if there is anything you’d like to ask us about?”
“Ummm... nope.” I say, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all covered.” Then I remember the book they bought me a few years before. It was aptly named “Your Changing Body”. It was lying in a draw somewhere... deep in the draw... under as much stuff as possible. It’s the kind of book a teenage boy doesn’t want on his bookshelf when his mates come around. I force a smile. “That book you bought me really helped. It’s answered all my questions. Thanks.”
I turn to leave.
“Are you sure?” says Mum, “You don’t have any questions you want to ask about sex? You’ve got a steady girlfriend and in the next couple of years you may want to start taking things further. We thought it might be appropriate if we showed you how to properly put on a condom.” Owen reaches for the bench behind him and turns back with a condom and a banana. I nearly choke.
“No, not necessary.” I say, “Totally not necessary. I’m not even sure it’s appropriate.” I start to back out of the kitchen. “Don’t worry Mum, they teach us most of this stuff at school and I reckon I can figure the rest out by myself. Can I please go now?”
“Ok.” she says and I turn and flee the kitchen. As I lock my bedroom door behind me Mum calls out: “Just remember, we’re always happy to answer any questions. You only have to ask.”
I guess my five tips to any mum would be:
1. Start the conversations early. You need to be talking about these things before your son is at an age where it gets awkward. If you explain early on the changes he will experience, and answer all his questions openly from that same early age, then the foundation is laid for him to ask you further questions as they arise.
2. Let him know that everyone goes through puberty at a different age and at a different rate. There were kids in my class that were virtually shaving before my puberty had even begun. The most important issue to me as an early teen was always “When am I going to get pubic hair like the other boys in my grade?”
3. Accept the fact that your son simply may not want to talk about it. Puberty is an awkward time in a boy’s life and as approachable as you may be, he might prefer to seek his answers in private. The key here is to ensure he is comfortable in coming to you if he ever does want to talk.
4. Provide him with information he can access in his own time. Find some good books or some good informative websites that provide him with the answers to any questions he may have. I guarantee you that in today’s age he’s going to be hitting Google before he asks the same question of Mum. You want him to be pre-armed with the appropriate sources (especially on the web) because otherwise he’s going to end up on the types of sites that you, as a parent, probably don’t want him visiting.
5. Finally, I think it’s really important that Mums (and Dads) take the time to explain to their sons that puberty ultimately leads to more muscle and more testosterone, and that these two things will not only make your son stronger but also more aggressive. As boys turn into young men they need to understand that with that new found strength comes a responsibility to treat all women gently and with courtesy and respect. And that courtesy and respect, of course, begins with the way adolescent boys should treat their Mum.