It seems there is a lot of talk in parenting circles around the topic of female adolescents going through the perils of puberty. We hear a lot about the changes girls face. Budding breasts and expanding curves, the emotional rollercoaster of emotions, and the biggie: their period.
But raising boys through puberty requires a certain parenting bravado, too, since what is changing in their bodies, moods, and feelings about themselves can be equally intimidating. After all, becoming a man is just as challenging as becoming a woman.
I can’t remember the exact day my son hit puberty, it seemed like it would never happen and then it hit me when I wasn’t looking.
Honestly as prepared as I thought I was, I clearly didn’t know anything.
I know we all have our different paths when it comes to parenting, but if someone would have warned me, and maybe let me know that he would come back to me, that would have been great.
What I hope to do here is just that: I’d like to offer an encouraging word and factual preparation for those currently on the journey. May it do what I hope it will do… make you, Mama, feel less alone.
10 Things You Need To Know When Your Son Goes Through Puberty
Prepare Your Heart, He’s Going to Start Pulling Away.
The need for privacy will show up. A boy’s healthy and natural need for privacy as they enter puberty will feel like they are pulling away. Your heart will ache a little (and if you’re like me, you will cry behind closed doors). Whatever rituals you formerly had around emotionally bonding with your son – the edge-of-bed sits before sleep, the bar stool pull-ups to the counter over a snack, the talkative car rides – will look different or begin disappearing. Although they may not directly say it, our teenage boys are telling us that they need their privacy when they become more quiet and distant.
I am guilty for taking it all a tad too personally, as though there was something I was doing wrong. I’m here to tell you: you’re doing nothing wrong. Wanting to wrap your arms around your son’s ankles and sob, “Come back! Please don’t go!” while feeling that you are somehow the reason they want to go is par for the course.
Try to respect your teen son’s nonverbal request for privacy and hang in there as you do it.
Speaking of Privacy…
Want to know what your son is doing during the hours upon hours he is spending alone in either his room or the bathroom? (The correct answer is No, No You Don’t). One thing is glaringly obvious: the days of your little boy’s begrudging attitude about bath time are now over. Now your eyes triple in size every time you receive a water bill because the showers are long. Like, really long. And please please please develop a family rule about knocking before entering his bedroom; boys masturbate during all hours of the day and night, so there is no time when it is safe to enter without permission.
(*this isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of teen boys who still can’t be forced to shower, it’s just one of those cliche’s that happens to be true)
Vacillation on the Mood Spectrum Can Leave You Emotionally Whiplashed.
Again, how come girls get all the credit for being hormonally moody during puberty? Teenage boys can swing pretty far on their mood spectrums, too. And fast. In one moment I would share a hug with my son (he likes me, he likes me!) and one bad text or one bad sibling exchange or one parenting-nudge-gone-awry later he’s treating me like scum (he hates me, he hates me!).
The best you can do is not engage, no matter what they say remember these are the hormones speaking, the undeveloped brain. He still loves you, just give him his space.
There’s no getting around it: you won’t always know what to do.
Becoming acclimated to the teenage version of my son meant becoming comfortable with discomfort. Certainty evaporated for me and in its place came a much less pleasant emotion: doubt. I would wonder, “Is he okay? Is anything wrong? Should I go check? Should I leave him alone? Might he need to talk if I only ask him?” I had no idea what he needed from me.
If I pried or dug too deep for information he would just shut down. Sometimes, in an attempt to get him to engage I’d end up nagging (at least I knew how to do that!).
Doubt is just a part of raising teenage boys, so if you’re feeling it, you’re normal. The best thing to communicate to your son, despite all the confusion about what you should say or do and how you should say and do it, is that your unconditional love is there to stay. Beyond that, try to get out of his way.
You Suddenly Feel That You’re Feeding an Army.
The first words out of my son’s mouth after he dropped his backpack and went up to his room were, “What do we have to eat?” He was starving at. all. times.
At least I learned that food was one of the ways to his heart. So if running to the grocery store every day and ordering pizza for him and his friends meant more facetime, I did it.
The intersection of my desire to creatively love on my newfound teen and his desire for food worked out great; he’d inhale whatever I set in front of him, and I guess you can call that love.
The Stink Is Real.
There is nothing like the stink of a newly developing teenage boy, the best I can describe it is sour bread x molding cheese x one hundred raw onions. You will do your best to keep yourself from saying, “Dude! When was the last time you took a shower?” and when puberty hits, that answer could be this morning!
Make it easy, stock up on all of the deodorants and Axe body wash, make it easy for him to pick a favorite. You’re welcome.
His Voice Will Change.
The day your son’s voice start’s to change is bittersweet, you will miss that high voice that said mama just yesterday but the sound of his adult voice will make you proud, I promise.
My favorite is when I would find myself sitting at the kitchen table and hear a stranger’s voice from upstairs. Like… a man’s voice. It was startling until I realized that it was, in fact, my teen son talking on the phone. It’s hard not to look at your son differently when he suddenly sounds like Morgan Freeman, but just know that underneath that bass is the same guy.
It Doesn’t Take Much to Cause an Erection.
Sometimes it’s not easy to be a guy. In the puberty years, boys can find themselves getting an erection without a moment’s notice. It could be something visually stimulating or simply the wind blowing. This is normal.
Chances are your son will not want to talk about it, so maybe just try to slip into a conversation that this is normal and it’s okay to talk about it. And then just leave it.
He Might Get a Little Pudgy
With hormones comes weight changes, we already know this so don’t be surprised when you see it in your son. My son would get super pudgy and start busting out of his clothes and then overnight it would seem like he had grown two inches and needed a belt to keep those same pants on. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end either, two cycles of this kind of weight gain and growth can be emotionally straining on a kid already worried about what everyone else thinks.
And just when our sons thought this couldn’t get any more confusing, their breasts might swell a little. Believe it or not, this sign of puberty in a girl can also happen to boys. It’s important to not judge but be aware because it can be painful and you want them to feel comfortable talking about it, or at least let them know that it will go away.
He Doesn’t Stop Needing You
With all the moodiness and indirect request for space, you might be tempted to believe that he is no longer in need of your guidance, support, and counsel. In fact, you may decide to walk away to protect yourself from the hurt before they hurt you.
But don’t. Don’t walk away, they need you now more than ever.
Don’t hover, don’t pester, don’t enter without knocking, don’t nag, don’t be intrusive. But, whatever you do, don’t go away. As hard as it may be.
There are ways to let them know that you are available when they need you. One of the best things I did was sit on the very edge of the sofa when my son was playing video games or watching sports. I didn’t say a word, I just sat, silent.
Another trick is to drive him everywhere. Be happy to jump in the car for a trip to McDonald’s, a friend’s house, or that club meeting. Whatever, wherever, you would be surprised at how easy it is for a kid to open up when he doesn’t have to look you in the eyes.
However, just because you are making the effort doesn’t mean there is a magic pill. They have no idea how to handle this either.
You may be scared, but trust me, he’s more scared.
I promise you that your son still loves you deeply and he will come back around. I can’t promise you that it will be easy but I can promise you that your new relationship will grow into something more special than you could even imagine.
One last word – I wanted to share some helpful resources. Talking about puberty with our sons can be, for most of us, awkward and embarrassing. It can be helpful to have some resources to help and normalize these conversations. Most of all let your son know that you are there to answer any questions they may have.
Here are some books to help! The 7 Best Books About Puberty For Boys