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Adolescence can be an exciting and challenging time when both young people’s bodies and minds are going through lots of changes. Having at least one trusted adult they can talk to about sensitive topics, such as puberty, their feelings and growing up, really helps. Trusted adults can be parents, grandparents, other relatives, caregivers, teachers or coaches. Even a young person’s friends’ parents can provide advice, answer difficult questions, share their values and/or faith traditions. Regardless of who a trusted adult is, what matters is that this person provide the support a young person needs and deserves. This is especially true for young people facing additional physical, emotional or social challenges.

Young people can feel awkward and nervous about talking with adults, especially if they know adults are going to judge or lecture them. While an adult may want to do all of the talking and tell a young person how to feel and what to think, this is a sure way to have a young person withdraw. An adult who listens to what young people have to say and respects their experiences and perspectives will earn their trust. If a young person does not feel judged, that young person is more likely to be honest with an adult and seek out help if they get into trouble, feel uncomfortable at a party or need help handling a tough situation.


Effective communication is the foundation of healthy relationships, and this is true for relationships between young people and their parents, caregivers or other trusted adults. As a parent or trusted adult, you can help your child or another young person practice good communication skills by demonstrating healthy communication skills in your conversations with them and being a supportive listener when a young person needs help.

The easiest way to start conversations about communication is to talk about it as it comes up in everyday life, like while watching a show or movie together.

Here are some ways to start these conversations:

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During puberty, a person goes through many physical, emotional and social changes. Boys usually begin puberty between the ages of 9 and 15, and it may take five to seven years for all of the changes to occur. The most obvious of these changes include a growth spurt; the voice becoming deeper; shoulders becoming broader; hair growth on the face, around the genitals and underarms; and the genitals growing larger. Some boys may experience acne, and their sweat may develop a strong odor. Some may also experience slight breast growth that can be embarrassing but usually resolves on its own.

The changes of puberty enable people to physically reproduce. During puberty, testosterone triggers the testicles to start making sperm, so the penis can now ejaculate. During puberty, some boys experience wet dreams or nocturnal emissions, when ejaculation occurs spontaneously during sleep. Wet dreams are normal, though not everyone has them. Many boys also experience spontaneous erections during puberty. Again, it’s normal if they do, and normal if they don’t.

The emotional changes associated with puberty may include having intense mood swings and new sexual and/or romantic feelings. Boys’ relationships with their parents, siblings and friends may also change during this time. They may express the desire for more privacy and want to spend more time with their friends. Young men going through puberty may feel embarrassed, nervous, self-conscious and/or excited by all of the changes they are experiencing. Having a wide range of feelings about puberty is completely normal.

It is important for caring adults to explain the changes of puberty to young men before and while they are going through them. It is also essential to assure them that these changes are normal. Helping young people identify ways to cope with these changes can make this stage of life less stressful. Talking about these changes with the young people in your life lets them know that they are not alone and that they can come to their parents or guardians if they have questions or need support.

Conversation Starters

If you start essential conversations about topics like puberty with your children, then they will know they can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they arise in everyday life while you are doing things like watching TV together. Masturbation, wet dreams and spontaneous erections may not just come up in conversation, but it’s important to talk about the issues that can provoke anxiety or worry for boys. If you talk with your child, he will know what to expect and how to cope. Below are some ways to start these conversations:

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