If you’ve got a son approaching his teenage years, you may wonder how his development compares to others.
How is it, for example, that some boys seem so much bigger and physically mature than their counterparts?
The answer lies with the onset and progression of puberty, says Dr. Brintha Vasagar, a family medicine physician with Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road. Some boys start earlier and progress faster.
“Your son may be ahead or behind his peers, but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong,” Dr. Vasagar says. “Kids just tend to start puberty and develop at different rates.”
Boys tend to begin puberty between the ages of 12-16 – a little later than girls, who usually begin between ages 10-14, she says. For boys, puberty begins with an increase in testosterone levels, leading to enlargement of his penis and testicles.
At the same time, pubic hair will grow in his armpits and genital area. He’ll begin to grow facial hair and his voice may start cracking and deepening, she says.
Plus, like girls as they go through puberty, your son will start to exhibit body odor, she says.
If your son begins puberty before age 9, it is considered “precocious puberty” and he should see a physician, Dr. Vasagar says. On the other end of the spectrum, your son should visit with a physician if his testicles haven’t grown by age 14.
Sons often take after their fathers, so a dad who entered puberty at a younger age might have a son who does, too.
The best thing parents can do for their children as they go through puberty is to offer support, Dr. Vasagar says. The transition from childhood to adolescence can be an extremely difficult time as children adapt to the changes in their body and experience new emotions.
“Reassure your child – let them know you’re there for them and that what they’re going through is completely normal,” she says. “A child may or may not feel comfortable talking to you about it, but your support can be very important as they navigate through the turbulence that comes with the process.”
Parents should also give older children private time to speak to their physician about sensitive issues at appointments, Dr. Vasagar says. In her practice, she asks parents to step outside for a few minutes so she can have a one-on-one conversation with older children.