My older son was frustrated, yet he couldn’t point to any reason for his anger flaring at a given moment. After seeing a pattern of his need to express himself and release tension—and since I have 2 sons and no daughters—it hit me: he was having his boy period!
I’m not a medical professional, but I’ve found that the more we trust our gut feeling, the better we can parent. After all, animals rely on their intuition and do the job without flipping through books and running Google searches.
Therefore, tapping into my gut feeling, I concluded that what was happening with my pre-teen was probably a rush of hormones without the bleeding.
I named this The Rage, defining it as “boy period.” It hugely helped both of us.
Talking to my son about puberty
I began explaining about hormones traveling in the bloodstream. Seeing his blank look, I compared them to guy-guys in a video game, telling him how they were cruising on the bloodstream highway to make him grow and become a man. That seemed to register.
I coached my son to work it out and not put reason to his feeling but try to understand he was morphing into a young adult. I invited him to go to his room and punch a pillow (instead of his little brother), run around the block, bike, play music, scream, or (the evergreen) “go take a shower.”
I went on to remarry and helped raise 3 pre-teen sons on top of my own 2. They were born 5 years apart, so the above realization proved helpful again as we entered the hormone zone. The son I was telling you about is now 25, and I recently asked him about his take on this part of his childhood. I wondered if he remembered our conversation and if it was as much of an epiphany for him as it was for me.
He said he remembered my telling him that he was going to be mad, possibly without a reason. It was comforting for him to know it was a feeling that would pass and that I gave him permission to be different when he was growing up, like being allowed to paint his nails. As an adult, he tells people about that. It’s better to be unique. He admits that without that childhood conversation about not putting reason to the rage moment, he would’ve handled the rage differently. So, yes, the rage talk helped him a lot.
When I asked my middle stepson (now 22) what he remembered from our boy period talk, he said that I helped him understand it was alright to have feelings. Guys are compelled to not “feel.” He remembers learning that feeling angry doesn’t mean you’re actually mad. It could be that you’re stressed or depressed and need to work on how to sort it out so the ape brain doesn’t win.
When is the best time to have “the talk”?
Going through puberty is confusing and stressful enough without having to fumble for answers on the hows and whys of what’s happening as your boy physically grows up. An honest discussion about puberty is the 1st step in helping your child become comfortable with all the strange and exciting body changes coming in the next few years.
As a school nurse, I taught growth and development to boys and girls starting in 4th grade. Most children are 9 going on 10 during this school year. I recommend talking to your child in around the same timeframe or even a little earlier, depending on how mature your boy is or if he’s starting to have questions. It would help if you discussed all of the confusing and sometimes scary body changes before your son actually begins to experience them.
Why should you talk to your boy about puberty?
Unfortunately, TV and other children may be educating your kid about sexuality and the maturation process before he’s old enough to understand or go through puberty himself. The information your boy receives before your discussion with him may all be misinformation.
Therefore, frank and straightforward information about the growth and maturation process is more important than ever for your child to understand puberty changes and face them without fear. Questions before the onset of puberty should always lead to an explanation at your boy’s level of understanding.
Taking the “fear of the unknown” factor out of growth and development helps calm your child’s wild notions of what will happen to their bodies. As an adult, I always feel better when I’m prepared mentally for an event or medical procedure ahead of time. The same applies to children when they go through bodily or emotional changes. Feeling scared and out of control will provoke rage and fear in boys. Giving your son facts so he’s ready to deal with the maturation “situation” will empower him and make the whole process much less anxiety-provoking for him.
So, how exactly is a discussion about puberty supposed to go?
First of all, you know your child best. There isn’t a cookie-cutter way to have “the talk” with your boy. All children are different and what may work for one son may not go so well for another. Some boys brim with questions and curiosity about the topic, while others may be mortified and shut down the discussion quickly.
So, don’t be disappointed if your well-thought-out talk doesn’t go as planned. You may need to expand more than you were prepared for or may need to break up the discussion into several 5-minute talks over time, depending on the response of your boy. You should initiate the discussion, but your child’s response will guide how you direct the topic and how long the conversation takes.
It’s essential to plan a quiet, uninterrupted time for the talk. Nothing would be worse than a little brother or sister sabotaging the talk with interruptions. Turn off the TV and hide all devices. A special event or time away from the house would be even better—consider going out for ice cream, a camping trip, or a hike. Your child will remember this moment, so try to make it positive and special.
Ask them if they have any questions. Encourage discussion and don’t rush this important talk. Also, try to keep the explanations simple. Be careful not to overwhelm your child with information. This is not a one-and-done conversation. Think of it as an initial discussion. As your child matures and goes through the more advanced stages of puberty, you can have lengthier, more in-depth discussions on maturation and sexuality.
Some important areas to discuss with your boy include:
- What puberty is;
- Ages of onset of puberty—make sure you mention that boys mature at different times, which is normal;
- Body changes to expect;
- Emotional changes;
- Hygiene and how to deal with body odor, acne, etc.;
Your approach to the topic and your demeanor will be important to your child and will affect their response. It’s much better to go with a casual, friendly, and open conversation than embarrass and offer curt facts. If you think that you’ll have trouble discussing puberty with your child, perhaps another family member can present the information in a way that is comfortable for everyone.
However, if you’re not offering to discuss puberty with your boy, make sure that you follow up with the offer to be available for any questions once the topic has been broached. Your boy needs to know that you’re OK with them maturing and that he can talk to you about it at any time.
Whether teens or seasoned adults, we all benefit from channeling our worry into physical activity. It helps settle our feelings and take a moment to celebrate how unique we are, ape brain and all.
Talking and reading about growth and development with your child and encouraging questions may be a bit uncomfortable for both of you but very much worth it in the long run. By making this milestone a memorable moment, you’re setting up the stage for open discussions on many important topics in the future.