Puberty can be a confusing time for children. They go through an inexplicable surge in hormone production, a number of physical and psychological changes, and their bodies essentially begin to transition from a ‘kid stage’ to the ‘adult stage.’ But the signs of puberty in boys differ greatly from those of the girls, which is why you may need to explain these changes to your son with care and consideration.
It’s also best to start ‘the talk’ early to ensure that your son has the correct information and from a reliable and trustworthy source. But before you dive right into it, understand the various stages of physical changes and then learn how you can help your son sail through this phase with ease and confidence.
The Four Stages of Puberty In Boys
They serve as a foundation guide to understand physical development in children. Although it’s also crucial to remember that each growing child may have a different puberty timetable.
Prof Tanner divides the growth spurts for boys int five stages.
Tanner stages in boys
Age at the start
After the 9th or 10th birthday
Around age 11
Pubic hair starts to form
Around age 13
Voice begins to change or “crack”; muscles get larger
Around age 14
Acne may appear; armpit hair forms
Around age 15
Facial hair comes in
Stage 1: This stage will start after your boy’s 9th or 10th birthday. However, you may not able to spot any noticeable physical changes in him.
Stage 2: This stage marks the beginning of tangible physical development and starts at around age 11. By this time, your boy’s testicles and the scrotum will begin to get bigger. Plus, pubic hair begins to form at the base of the penis.
Stage 3: Physical changes will become more obvious and this stage starts at around age 13. Your son will develop muscles and his voice may ‘crack,’ going from high to lower pitches. His height will also grow by 2 to 3.2 inches per year.
Stage 4: Changes in this stage may start at around age 14. By this time, his deeper voice will become permanent and his armpit hair will start to grow. Some of your boys may also complain of acne on their faces, which is a normal hormonal change.
Stage 5: This is the final stage, which marks the end of your child’s physical maturation. This stage may start by age 15. You will find facial hair on your boy and some of them may even need trimming. The growth in height may slow down by this time. Plus, by this time, the penis, testicles and scrotum would have reached their adult size.
Now that you know how these stages are divided, let’s understand each of these changes in-depth.
8 Signs Of Puberty In Boys: Physical Developmental Changes
On average, boys begin to go through puberty a little later than girls, typically around age 10 or 11. But they may begin to develop sexually or have their first ejaculation without looking older. Below are some signs of physical development which you and/or your son may notice as he hits puberty.
1. Increased testicular size
Image courtesy: Pexel
At around the age of 11, your son’s testicles and skin around the testicles (scrotum) will begin to get bigger. As the testicles continue to grow, the skin of the scrotum will darken, enlarge, thin down, hang down from the body, and will become dotted with tiny bumps. These are hair follicles. The penis, testicles and scrotum will continue to grow till they reach their adult sizes.
Of course, this is an intimate revelation that perhaps only your son will notice. But before he panics, it is best to share the anatomical logical behind the change so he isn’t taken aback.
2. Other physical developments
By the time your son is 13, you may be able to notice some evident changes in his physical appearance. Here are some developments that will take place:
Penis gets longer as testicles continue to grow bigger
You may also notice some breast tissue that may start to form under the nipples
Boys begin to have wet dreams (ejaculation at night)
3. Pubic hair
After the enlargement of the penis and the scrotum, the next changes of puberty will come in quick succession.
One of the visible signs of puberty is hair growth on your child’s sex organs. This will continue to grow for the next four years until the hair spreads to the inner thighs. When your son is around 14, you will notice that his armpit hair has also started to grow.
Image courtesy: iStock
Just after the peak of the growth spurt, your son’s voice box (larynx) enlarges, as do his vocal cords. For a brief period of time, your son’s voice may “crack” occasionally as it deepens.
Once the larynx reaches adult size, the cracking will stop and the deeper voice will become permanent.
5. Acne on face
When your child hits puberty, you may also notice acne on his face. This is nothing to worry about, as most teens will get acne sometime during their teenage years due to hormonal changes. Ask your son to keep his face clean and to wash it two to three times a day. For more severe acne, you may consider taking your child to see a dermatologist.
6. Body odour
Your child will start developing body odour as the larger sweat glands also develop during puberty. To prevent body odour, talk to your child about the natural deodorant options.
He may feel embarrassed because of the body odour, but you’ll beed to make him understand there is nothing to feel ashamed of. Tell him of the importance of maintaining hygiene, changing his clothes frequently and also taking showers regularly, especially after an intense physical activity.
7. Facial hair
Image courtesy: iStock
Puberty is also the phase when your son will start developing facial hair. The facial hair usually tends to grow at the corners of the upper lip (age 11–15). It then spreads to form a moustache over the entire upper lip (age 16–17).
Even though this is usually the pattern, but it can vary widely. So some boys will develop facial hair starting from the chin and up towards the sideburns. It is also the time when they may want to start shaving.
8. Experiencing erection
You may find your son spending more time alone in his room or in the bathroom. This might be because of erections that could be frequent and/or sudden.
In fact, he may even have wet dreams (ejaculating while asleep), which are a normal part of puberty for boys. There may be times when he would feel uncomfortable sharing these changes with you, so encourage your husband or any male member he is close to speak with him. Never let him feel that he is alone and neglected.
Remember that your son is going through a lot of changes, which he himself doesn’t understand. So encourage him to share with you or your partner when he notices anything different about himself. While these are all signs of a healthy and on-track puberty transition, there are chances of some boys going through delayed puberty too.
Delayed Puberty: What Is It And How To Deal With It
Here are some signs of delayed puberty in boys:
No testicle development by age 14
Incomplete development of the testicles and penis 5 years after they first show signs of development
If this is the case with your son too, worry not. Talk to your child’s doctor who may physically examine your son and point to an exact diagnosis. This could potentially be due to hormonal changes or growth decline or any other physiological issue.
During this phase, you may also notice your son experiencing a wider range of emotions. They may range from irritability to sadness to frustration to anger. He may throw tantrums for simple or no reasons.
In such a case, it’s best to remain calm and deal with him patiently. Your smart and confident son may experience self-esteem issues for the first time in his life. Luckily, emotions start to level out by the end of puberty.
However, if you find your son’s mood is more troubling than what you expect, or he seems depressed or has thoughts of hurting himself or others, you need to intervene immediately. Speak to him about the issues that bother him and get help as needed.
How You Can Help Your Son Cope With The Changes
When talking to your son about puberty, it’s important to be reassuring. Remember, before you answer your child’s questions, make sure your own questions have been answered.
Puberty brings about so many changes that it’s easy for him to feel insecure and alone. He may feel a low sense of self-esteem about many things, for instance, his appearance, body odour or his cracking voice. However, make him understand that he is not alone and everybody goes through this stage.
If you’re also at this stage in your parenting journey and would like to share your personal experience, write to us here.