How To Talk To Your Son About Puberty

For moms, everything about having a son is surprising. Even if your son is the spitting image of you as a child, no doubt he’s different. As you watch your son grow up, you fight the urge to smother him with hugs and kisses and try to allow him find his own way in the world of boys.

Just about the time you think you’ve got boys all figured out, you get the dreaded note from the school. No, not the note about your son standing on his desk again. It’s the note informing you that fifth grade is THE grade. This is the year all the fifth grade boys get the movie and the lecture on “becoming young men.” Before you start shrieking and pulling out your hair, sit down and take a deep breath.

Yes, in fifth grade your son is only 10 or 11. Odds are he’s not showing any signs of becoming a man yet. But, some boys are at that point. The school cannot single 1-2 boys out for the big lecture so they choose to do it for everyone. It’s okay. They’ve given you warning and you have some time to talk to your son first. No matter what you learned from watching sitcom re-runs, there is no such thing as “the talk.” What is happening now is the beginning of a dialog that will go on for years and years with your son.

Plan that first conversation for a time while you and your son are alone and driving somewhere that takes about 30-45 minutes to reach. Hit a drive-thru if you need to stretch your drive. Boys are much more open to talking to their moms if they are not being stared down from across a table. (Before you plan your drive, contact your son’s school and ask for copies of what exactly is included in the school’s program. Base your initial talk on this information.)


Below is a brief outline of topics you might want to cover initially. Keep in mind, your son is horrified that you are talking to him about this stuff. Overcome any awkwardness you might have before you start. Also keep in mind that your son is not going to go to bed one night as your little boy and wake up the next morning a big hairy man. This is the beginning of the process, stick to the basics. There will be time to cover things in depth as they come up.

The First Conversation

  • Hygiene – No matter what the school says, this is all about hygiene. Somewhere between 11-13, your little boy stops smelling like a little boy. He’ll just smell. A lot. Talk about the need to shower regularly (using soap and shampoo where needed). Ask if he’d like to pick his own deodorant or have you do it for him. Explain the need to get used to using deodorant everyday. Boys this age are more likely to use a body wash/shampoo combination, ask if he’d like to try one. Nothing is going to change overnight. Odds are the night after this conversation takes place you will be sending him back to the shower to get his hair completely wet and to wash it with shampoo.
  • Hair – It’s bound to happen. Let your son know what to expect and where to expect it.
  • Hot Tempers – It’s good for you and your son to know that as he enters puberty, he will experience extreme mood swings. One minute he’ll be happy and the next he’ll be in tears or he’ll feel raging anger. Reassure each other that this is all normal – hormones surging is all – and it will settle down in time.
  • Her – That’s right, girls. Odds are your son is not truly interested in girls yet. You should give him a heads up that the girls he knows now are going to start acting and looking much older than he does. Talk to him about your family rules on dating, talking on the phone, group activities now before it is a real issue. (Today is not the day to have a big conversation about sex, though you need to plan that one soon!)
  • Home – The main point of this conversation is to let your son know that you know what is going on. Let him know that he is free to ask you (or his dad) any question at all. Reassure him that even if things get bumpy, he’s safe and loved at home.

This is the first of many conversations with your son. Many moms like to give their son a book that explains the finer details in a way they can read privately. Check for a book that corresponds to your family’s beliefs and values. Stay open to his questions, even if he surprises you with something. The more willing you are to talk, the more willing he’ll be to talk to you.

Good luck!


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