First, you worry about circumcision … to do or not to do. Then, you spend the next few years making sure it’s clean, regardless of your decision.
There’s the whole infant peeing extravaganza that prompted one genius to invent the “Peepee Teepee” to prevent a stream that makes the NY Fire Department (or a 65-year-old man) envious. But that comes in handy when they’re peeing on grandma’s trees in the backyard … because who wants to take a break from play? Farting and burping is SOOOO funny!
And then they hit about 12, and the real fun begins. I know. You can’t wait. While most parents agree that raising girls can be a harrowing experience, most moms view that as a “known commodity.” But what the heck are we supposed to do with boys? During the next couple of years, your son is going to go through a “growth spurt” (which will probably be accompanied by an eating spurt … now is a good time to invest in a Costco or Sam’s Club membership for bulk buying). He will get taller and gain wait; he will begin to have facial and body hair. He will think he is the only person on earth who masturbates and has “wet dreams.” He will probably be concerned about his penis – is it normal?
So clearly, parents should be open and honest about the body and bodily functions for the entirety of their child’s life – don’t wait until your kids are going through puberty to have “The Talk.” The Talk should be going on since birth. A little “proactive parenting” will make it feel not so “weird” when your son begins to express concerns and questions about his sexuality.
According to the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, teenagers are spontaneous. (Suppress your urge to say, “duh.”) But, let’s reiterate that teens – boys and girls — talk when THEY want to, not when YOU want to (nor when it’s necessarily convenient to you). Talking “with” — not lecturing “at” – proves successful in most cases. And try to limit the “parent freak out” moments to your closet or when they’re really warranted. Like, when he wants to wear gym shorts to school and it’s 30 degrees, it doesn’t need to turn into a big long dissertation on common sense. Save it for things that are potentially harmful.
What are actual health concerns for teen boys?
While we normally associate eating disorders with teen girls, teenage boys – especially those involved in wrestling, swimming and track – are at-risk for eating disorders. They may be focused on gaining muscle mass, so it may appear that they’re simply getting in shape. Likewise, LGBTQ+ identifying teens are also at high risk for eating disorders. Eating disorders are not a “phase” you can talk through. Seek professional counseling immediately if you suspect your son has an eating disorder.
While your son may be fixated on his penis and testicles, and that’s normal, you both need to be aware of some health issues “down there.”
Boys aged 12 – 18 can develop a condition known as testicular tortion, when the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle, rotates and becomes twisted. When it happens, emergency treatment – surgery — is needed fast. If testicular torsion goes on for more than a few hours, it can permanently damage the testicle, and a damaged testicle must be removed. Many times, there is no cause, but can happen after strenuous exercise or an injury to the scrotum. Regardless, if your son complains of sudden pain in his testicles, err on the side of caution and call his physician immediately.
A more common occurrence for young men ages 15 – 25 may be a varicocele — a mass of swollen and enlarged veins in the scrotum. It’s caused when the veins in the spermatic cord don’t work correctly and the blood that normally circulates in the area backs up. When this happens, the veins stretch and swell up, called varicocele. Your son may notice a heavy, dull ache in the scrotum or even a painless testicular lump. While not an emergency situation like testicular tortion, it is something that should be seen, diagnosed and monitored by a physician. It may or may not require treatment, depending on the severity of the condition. Sometimes, a physician may just suggest wearing an athletic supporter to relieve the minor discomfort.
And as a “boy mom,” what more can you ask for? … More jock straps in the laundry!