How would you recommend moms talk to their sons about puberty?
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Though it may make parents uncomfortable, straight-forward talk always trumps metaphor. Even very young kids appreciate honest, intelligent answers.
Either that or use puppets.
It all depends on which puberty you are talking about: the one on the inside or the one on the outside.
The one on the outside is usually what we mean, and the only trick there is not to wait until it is happening to talk about it.
It is probably best addressed by dad (where there is one) early and often whenever physical comparisons are voiced: potty training, showering with dad, changing for the pool. "Why is mine different than yours?" "Because changes happen when boys turn into men. Some of those changes are..." If the boy can ask about it, you can answer.
It's the one on the inside that requires both parents, more patience and a strategic decision by the parents who are women to change some unquestioned assumptions. It should go without saying, yet I am amazed how often loving mothers fail to recognize that boys are not incomplete girls. By this I mean the subtle fallacy of our culture that female experience is normative while male experience is somehow a stunted version of it. This manifests in subtle yet recognizable ways: little boys are "adorable" but teen boys are "annoying" or even something to be feared. Little boys have mothers who set up play dates. Big boys have mothers who disengage from their friendships when they need them most. If you want to remain relevant to your son at an age when human cultures throughout history have traditionally transferred them to their father's domain, you need to make the strategic choice to think of your changing son as someone to be loved, and not something to be fixed.
He's the same soul that he was when he was cute, and he's having trouble managing the feelings that arise when no one enjoys having him around anymore. This is perhaps at the core of puberty on the inside, and it starts earlier than you think. Look for emotional and behavior changes around 9 or 10.
Lastly, take time to understand how young people behave, and consider that it serves an adaptive purpose meant to help them survive and thrive, not just annoy you. This recent article on the Teenage Brain in National Geographic is an ideal start: http://j.mp/mR534Q
The day he turned 13 (or 9 with today’s teens), I would race up next to his school bus with a tinted-out minivan. I'd run the bus off the road, force an entry with a BB gun, pistol whip whoever he was sitting with, cover his head in a stinky pillowcase, pull him off the bus and toss him in the third row (reason we bought the car!) of the burb cruiser.
I'd blare speed metal, poke him with dull pencils and drive recklessly in circles.
I’d back up to the garage and dump him out on the pavement. I’d yank the pillowcase off, revealing a sea of folding chairs occupied by his grandmothers, aunts and great aunts.
The room would be filled with antiquated books, a drop-down screen for early 50’s health ed films shot on 8mm. A separate table would hold bananas & condoms, training bras and tampons. The audio of Peter Brady losing his voice would be on loop and there would be illustrations of urethras and vas deferens.
If dad was around, let him handle it. Take him camping or fishing, explain armpit hair, baritone voices and boners while catching the limit. If dad isn’t around, let the most qualified uncle take a stab. If not, a guidance counselor, the cable guy or a stranger.
I would recommend saying what my mom said to me. That is, "Ask your father."
In all seriousness, I do think the dad should be involved, if there is a dad. I also think the more comfortable you are, the more comfortable your son will be. Relax. Shoot straight. Tell it like it is. Don't make jokes. (And that means a lot coming from me.)
Then again, I have a 4 year-old daughter who takes the word of her best friend over mine. So take my advice with a grain of salt. Also, I'm STILL uncomfortable with puberty.
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.
Call your freinds with kids older than yours and ask how they dealt with it!
That's how I found out about the book, "What's Going On Down There."
Then keep an open dialogue with yor child and don't show them any embarrassment on your part, that will end the conversation in their end quite quickly and defeat the purpose of your guidance.
Here's the best advice I can give you: brace yourself to maintain your composure. Make sure you neither blush nor laugh at the questions you are asked.
If your son senses A.) you are uncomfortable with the conversation or B.) you think his questions are stupid or C.) you can't answer his questions in a simple way that he can understand, then he will try to find the answers to his questions in another way. As difficult as it is, you want to create an environment where your son is comfortable asking you anything.
The only way to create this environment is to maintain a poker face when asked questions that would make Hugh Hefner blush. If you are able to do so, your son will be more likely to bring his concerns to you and less likely to seek out answers from much less healthy (and more dangerous) ways like friends or experimentation or, God forbid, the internet.
I would recommend that the mom/son relationship is strong (or strengthened) before any such talk.
A great way to learn about the points of view of your son on many issues ... is to share a book together. And then talk about it. Some excellent options are "Hot issues, Cool Choices" or "If you Had to Choose What would You do" by Sandra McLeod Humphrey.
Learn what your son would do in difficult situations. Discuss about it. Find out his points of view.
Don't tackle puberty head on - first make sure that your relationship is even stronger and that your son sees that you don't just love him, but also respect his thinking.
The talk is the icing, the relationship is the cake.
Read Aloud Dad
Simply reading the best children's books to my twins
Most people don't think of Moms being the ones to tackle the task of explaining puberty to their sons, but they are uniquely qualified in 3 ways:
1. Moms are used to dispensing motherly advice in a way that's both loving and helpful. The same tactic can be applied to this tender, new topic: how to treat acne, time to start wearing deodorant, that crack in your voice won't last forever.
2. Many Moms also serve as primary health practitioner, so again, the skill set is already in place to deal with some of the more "clinical" aspects of puberty, but with a Mom's sensitivity: hair in new places, growth spurts, sexual attraction.
3. And lastly, Moms offer the wisdom and experience to train their sons how to respectfully treat a girl (being one themselves) or another boy (having interacted with at least one).
Of course the "masturbation talk" can be passed off to Dad or Dad surrogate. Mom shouldn't have to do everything.
This all depends on the relationship between a mom and her son. If they have an open relationship, where they could already talk about anything and everything then why should puberty be any different? The more uncomfortable someone is about talking about it, the more uncomfortable (and embarrassing) both parties will be having a conversation about it.
Growing up, I didn't expect either of my parents to speak to me about puberty. Is this something that teens expect parents to talk about or blame them if they don't?
I think I learned about it in biology class. I remember seeing a banana and a condom in health class, but honestly had no idea what that was about at the time. Go through your son's biology book and see if it covers the topic well enough. If so, enough said. Just make sure they do their homework. You've done your job.
It's so awesome that we have technology today. Moms can get together with other moms (and dads, if invited) online and see how other moms are dealing with sons going through puberty or have gone through it. Always remember that you're not alone in this and shouldn't have to go through it alone, either.
Tell their son to go ask dad!
If that isn't an option, the best approach is direct, straight to the point and within the realm of the science of physical development. The message is probably more well received from a male (I shudder to think about talking with my girls about puberty-thank God for my wife), but facts are facts.
When you start having to deal with the more testosterone driven emotions of an adolescent boy, you should prepare for some level of conflict. Even if you have a strong relationship with your son, there will be rebellion and conflict. If this gets out of hand, you are in for a rocky few years.
My son is turning 10 in January so we have already started to talk about the changes that he will be going through. I've always believed their is no forbidden knowledge so we have had many conversations on lots of topics. We've started with the clinical changes that will occur and the explanation that it happens over time. He really wants big muscles and he knows that puberty is a step along the way. My son has a very scientific mind so giving him all the science behind it helps. We have also talked about testosterone and the aggression that it can cause. He knows about sex and where babies come from. We have an excellent book for kids on that, that of course I can't find right now. He hasn't linked puberty to sex yet but that is just a matter of time.
Honesty and open communication are the best policy for everything. My kids know they can ask me and I will answer the best that I can or I will look it up.
Openly, honestly and whenever he's ready. But remember, don't pick the subject like a scab. It (or in this case, son) will only fester in silence. Moms have the tricky job of allowing questions when he's ready to ask (with nothing off-limits) and gently nudging him to ask things you know he wants to know and needs to ask. All without 'nagging'. The phrase, 'treading on eggshells' could not be more apposite. But then, that's what makes parenting so challenging; that's why we love it.
Personally, I was never able to have the open, honest conversation with my parents that I'd like to think I could have with my own children. But they're three and eight months, so I've got time to prepare. And that's crucial. The openness, trust and honesty necessary to talk to a boy - or girl, for that matter - about puberty starts years earlier, starts with the hidden agenda of your own attitude to sex and the unspoken messages given by the answers to all their other questions.
Moms need to be frank and stick to the facts. You have to be able to talk to your son honestly without getting squeamish about the topic.
Let them know that physical changes are coming (if they haven't already). Let them know they are about to grow hair all over, especially in places they wouldn't necessarily expect. Tell them how their voices are going to crack all over but will eventually deepen. Let them know that their bodies are going through transformations that will lead them into being young men.
And them them know this is normal and OK.
Also let them know that those icky things called girls are going to start be interesting. That's OK too.
These things happen to everyone.
Now here's the kicker - make sure your son knows he can come to you ANYTIME he wants to talk or has a question. Be there for him. And understand that it's a strange time for your son. Be there and give him some space at the same time (balance is hard).
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