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Puberty in boys

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Lisa Franklin, Child & baby health

Boys, too, can have an interesting period during puberty. It is during this period that their bodies change and they begin to look like men. In boys, puberty usually begins between age 9 and 14. Changes in their bodies occur as a result of chemicals known as hormones. So what are some of these changes?

Enlargement of the testicles

This may be the first sign of puberty in boys. The testes may double in size during this period. In most boys, one may hang lower than the other (usually the left).

Pubic hair

Fine hair appears on the penis. This becomes thicker in texture and then extends to the entire pubic region and inner thighs. Eventually, hair appears on the face, legs, underarm, and chest.

Growth spurt

Boys tend to go through the growth spurt later than girls. The arms, legs, hands, and feet may grow faster than the rest of his body. This may make them feel awkward, but they will eventually 'fill-out' as they gain weight and more muscles.

Deeper voice

The voice box enlarges just after the peak of the growth spurt. As this occurs, boys may experience 'cracking' of the voice. Once the voice box reaches adult size, this usually stops.

Penis growth

The penis first grows in length then in width. A lot of boys become preoccupied with the size of their penises during this period. In some instances, they may need to be reassured that the size is normal.

Breast development

In boys? Yes, some boys may experience tenderness or swelling under the nipple. Some may actually have breast growth. This may be a source of teasing, so they need to be reassured that this is not abnormal and that these breasts will go away within a few months.

Erections

This occurs when the penis fills with blood and
becomes hard. During puberty, this can occur spontaneously and at
'inappropriate' times. Boys need to be reassured that this is normal and
there isn't much that can be done to stop it. In most instances, no one
else notices (we hope).

Wet dreams

Ejaculation (release of sperm) during sleep occurs
frequently during puberty. It usually occurs spontaneously and may not
be associated with a sexual dream. Boys may wake up thinking they have
urinated accidentally, or that something is wrong. They may also feel
embarrassed or guilty. Reassure them that this is completely normal.

Parents must also be prepared to deal with the social and emotional changes that occur. It is important to talk openly with your children about puberty. These talks should occur before the onset of puberty. This often helps children to feel more comfortable as they go through this potentially difficult period.

Some tips:

1. Find out what your child knows.

2. Provide facts and correct wrong information.

3. Reassure your child that the changes during puberty are normal.

4. Be extra supportive of those who go through puberty earlier or later than the average child.

Dr Lisa N.C. Franklin-Banton is the president of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.