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Ages & Stages

Boys have pubertal concerns and worries, too, including:

Voice Change. As their larynx (or voice box) enlarges and the muscles or vo­cal cords grow, their voice may "crack" as they speak. While this can be em­barrassing and annoying, it's a normal part of the growth process.

Wet Dreams. Boys may awaken in the morning with damp pajamas and sheets. These "wet dreams," or nocturnal emissions, are caused by an ejacu­lation, not urination, that occurs during sleep; they are not an indication that the boy was having a sexual dream.  Explain this phenomenon to your son, and reassure him that you understand that he cannot prevent it from happening. Wet dreams are just part of growing up.

Involuntary Erections. During puberty, boys get erections spontaneously, without touching their penis and without having sexual thoughts. These un­expected erections can be quite embarrassing, especially if they occur in pub­lic—at school, for example. Inform your son that these unexpected erections are normal and are a sign that his body is maturing. Explain that they happen to all boys during puberty, and that with the passage of time they will become less frequent.

Breast Enlargement. Many boys experience swelling of the breasts during the early years of puberty. Most often, your son may feel a flat, button like bump under one or both nipples. His breasts may also feel tender or even painful. After a few months—sometimes longer—the swelling will disappear; these boys will not develop true breasts.

One Testicle Lower than the Other. Uneven testicles, although they may be embarrassing in the boys' locker room, are both normal and common.

As your child approaches and enters puberty, be sensitive to his or her need for privacy. Preteenagers will tend to become more modest while they bathe, for example, or change their clothes. Respect this desire for privacy, not only as it relates to their bodies but in other aspects of life as well, such as not read­ing their mail and remembering to knock before entering their rooms.

Children also become more sensitive about their body image during this time. Their interest in grooming increases, and they are more likely to be self-conscious about their appearance, thanks largely to the influence of their peers and the media. Watch for signs of a child who has a distorted body im­age, which can contribute to eating disorders in some cases.  

Also, avoid even good-natured teasing of your child about his or her puber­tal development. Because most youngsters feel self-conscious during this time, they will become embarrassed if they are kidded about the changing shape of their bodies or their deepening voices.


Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.