DEAR DOCTOR K: What can I expect when my son goes through puberty?
DEAR READER: I’m tempted to reply: “You don’t want to know.” Then again, you wrote me expecting an answer.
There are hormonal changes during puberty. In addition, the brain still is growing and developing; it is not yet the adult brain. There are things the adult brain does that the adolescent brain often does not do – like think twice before doing something.
Puberty usually starts between the ages of 9 and 14 for boys. It typically lasts four or five years. The first sign of puberty in a boy is usually that the testicles and scrotum get bigger, due to changes in male sex hormones.
Boys gain a lot of weight and develop muscles during puberty. Their shoulders get wider and they grow taller. The peak growth period occurs about two years after puberty has begun.
Hair grows under the arms, on the legs and face, in the pubic area and sometimes on the chest. Glands in the skin make more oil and sweat. Body odor and acne might become noticeable.
Another change is that a boy’s voice becomes lower or deeper than it was during childhood.
As hormone levels increase during puberty, boys have more frequent erections. The body starts making sperm, and boys start to ejaculate during an erection. Boys sometimes ejaculate while they are sleeping. This so-called wet dream, or nocturnal emission, is normal, and it usually goes away as a boy gets older.
Puberty also brings many emotional changes. Your son is developing intense friendships. He cares deeply about what other people think, and he wants to be liked and accepted by his friends.
Respect your son’s growing need for independence from you and desire to keep many things private – at least from you. At the same time that he is becoming more independent from you, your son is becoming much more dependent on his friends.
During puberty, a child’s moods change quickly and often. Although it can be frustrating, these mood swings are normal. Do your best to support, encourage and guide your child through this time.