Ah, puberty. We all remember it well, though most of us would probably rather forget it. The years spent dealing with raging hormones, a changing voice and sparse facial hair were awkward, to say the least.
Many guys will experience the awkward puberty phase not once, but twice. The first time as a kid, and the second time as a dad.
If your son is fast-approaching that specific age (usually, between 9 and 14), puberty will be here before you know it. Now is a good time to start thinking about how you’re going to guide him through some of the tough—and downright confusing—years ahead.
How should you help your son navigate puberty? Here are seven pieces of advice to follow.
Recognize When His Skin Needs Help
Once your son enters puberty, his hormones will become more active. This often has the unfortunate side effect of making his skin more oily and prone to acne.
If you’ve ever struggled with acne, you know the toll it can take on a person’s confidence. You can help your son control his inevitable breakouts by getting him a skin care subscription with an acne cream that’s formulated for his skin.
By providing him with all the necessary skin care basics (i.e. face wash, moisturizer, gentle face scrub, acne cream), he can take care of his oily skin and potentially sidestep some of the nastier acne breakouts during puberty.
- Don’t Force “The Talk”
You don’t want to talk about puberty. He really doesn’t want to talk about puberty. The end result is that both sides don’t talk about it.
If your son backs out of any puberty conversation you try to have with him, the last thing you want to do is force it. Instead, leave a puberty book written for guys in his room.
This way, he can read it if he has questions that he’s too embarrassed to ask you. Let your son know that you’re ready to talk about it whenever he’s ready.
Teach Him Proper Consent and Respect
In the age of the #MeToo movement, you probably don’t need to be told that teaching your son consent is important. Understanding consent and the crucial role it plays in relationships—whether of sexual nature or platonic—is vital for kids and adults alike.
There are several informative books on consent that can help you educate your son on the topic. Check out Consent: The New Rules of Sex Education by Jennifer Lang and I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly and Zack King, which is geared for younger kids but still has valuable information, nonetheless.
In addition to teaching your son how to respect boundaries, don’t forget to teach him how to voice his concerns and give his own consent. According to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, young people are at the highest risk of rape and sexual assault in the United States. He needs to feel confident enforcing his own boundaries and speaking up to adults when something doesn’t feel right to him.
Take His Mental Health Seriously
It’s easy for parents to chalk up symptoms of depression to stereotypical teen behavior. As a consequence, many teenagers suffer silently, especially boys who are taught to not display their emotions.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 2.3 million teens in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. These episodes can interfere with your son’s daily life, resulting in poor academic performance and health problems.
As a parent, it’s important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in your teenage son. If he’s experiencing significant weight changes, having trouble sleeping and losing interest in things he once enjoyed, this is a clear indication that he needs your help to get him back on track.
It can be embarrassing to have your son ask a puberty question that you’re not prepared to answer. Even though his questions may take you by surprise, be grateful that he’s asking in the first place.
It may have taken your son a lot of courage to ask you a tough question about puberty. The last thing you want to do is shrug him off or discourage him in any way.
If you don’t know the answer to his questions, be honest and tell him that. Let him know that he asked a good question and that you’re going to find out the answer for him.
For some boys, teasing during puberty can have long-lasting and detrimental effects. For instance, making fun of his voice cracking may result in him never speaking up in class or voicing his opinions.
If you have a joking relationship with your son, make sure that none of them have anything to do with his body. Though he may have laughed at being called “chubs” as a youngster, he may be more concerned about his weight now that he’s going through big physiological changes.
Give Him Space
If you’re a self-proclaimed “helicopter parent,” you should probably nip that bad habit in the bud right now. Puberty is not a good time to constantly be hovering over your son.
Think about it: He’s developing into a man and needs some breathing room to figure out all of life’s mysteries. How would you like it if your dad never let you have any space?
You don’t need to give up complete control of your son. Just loosen the reins a bit. And for everyone’s sake, please remember to knock before you enter his room.
Puberty is a normal, healthy process that we all go through at some point. If you want your son to flourish in these sometimes difficult and confusing years, it’s important that you recognize early what he’ll need to have a smooth transition into manhood.
Sure, he may not be super appreciative at the moment. But later on, your son will surely thank you a million times over for being such a supportive and caring dad.