Over the past couple days, I binge listened on the Libby App to an entire audio book – Decoding Boys. Written by Dr. Cara Natterson, a board-certified pediatrician and the NY Times bestselling author of American Girl’s Care & Keeping Of™ series for girls. I first came across her when I was searching about puberty and what to do for my son. It was in her Ted talk and all her books, the one thing she keeps reiterating is that the world talks to girls about puberty and that as parents we need to keep talking to our boys! Because they shut down and get quiet and retreat does not mean they don’t need us to talk to them!
So as a mom of a soon-to-be 13 year old, whom I think has begun puberty, I needed all the facts and NOW! I don’t ever recall having conversations with adults about body changes, periods, etc. and when I asked couple friends, they too had very limited talks (some not at all) – so I figured, I’d get out in front of it now. Also being that we live in the Netherlands and Europe for the past 9+ years, they see/hear and are given information a lot differently than they would had they been growing up in Boston.
Puberty doesn’t have to be scary. so I bought her book “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys” – to help guide him (AND ME) through this awkward rite of passage. When I saw she wrote a boy edition, I thought I’d buy it asap. The paperback book is nicely illustrated and divided into 7 chapters:
Chapter 1 – BODY BASICS
This is a general overview – how important it is for you develop healthy habits now which will set you up for healthy habits in your life! It stresses the importance of asking questions and talking to various trusted adults in your life not a computer. Breaks down basic facts about boys’ bodies and explains the common changes of puberty – you will: grow taller, sprout hair, sweat more, develop muscles, see changes in skin and hair texture, get a deeper voice, see changes to private parts, and experience new emotions.
Chapter 2 – HEADS UP
Literally covers everything boys need to know to care for their head & neck. Including hair care, eyes, oral hygiene (like braces), skin care – acne and importance of using sunscreen.
Chapter 3 – REACH
How to care for arms & chest – hands, nails, how to wash and use deodorant, underarm hair that develops. Managing Stink – controlling body oder, and possible temporary breast enlargement.
Chapter 4 – BELLY ZONE
All about the abdomen – the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Shares detailed info on healthy hydration, food, nutrition, and essential vitamins and minerals. Especially the importance of drinking water and other drinks – both positive & negative and a lot about pee – how to use urine color as an indicator.
Chapter 5 – BIG CHANGES
Starts out that some changes are clear and some are super private. Talk about hormones start to circulate in the body and that causes – changes in pubic area and even talks about circumcised penises, different types of underwear – pros & cons. Erections and nocturnal omission – a wet dream. It even covers shaving – changes in voice and mood.
Chapter 6 – GET GOING
Talks about legs and height. Growth spurts, pains and importance of exercise and enough sleep, bed-wetting & rest. Foot care – like athletes foot, blisters and foot odor. Sports safety and the importance of physical activity.
Chapter – 7th YOUR INNER YOU
This section delves into new feelings and emotions boys may be experiencing during puberty, including topics on peer pressure and bullying, plus letting guys know that it’s not only okay, but healthy, to express their emotions – not bottling up feelings.
So in may ways the book is very inclusive. The illustrations show a good representation of difference races. Talks well about different rates of development. Body sizes, explains that all people have hormones – and reviews testosterone and a bit of others. But… it does leave out some things which are essential and need to be discussed in the future. Perhaps because it was written by an American doctor it takes a more medical fact-based approach, but it doesn’t cover gender identity of sexual orientation, masturbation and does not explanation reproduction, consent, pornography, sexual desires – the emotional and/or physical attraction you’ll have with another person. As said above, it does talk about an errection and nocturnal omission – the wet dream, however!
Overall I do think it’s a good first book for boys to get to know about the body and emotional changes – perfect for the younger age range (10-13). I think it’s a good book to have in his room where he can refer back to what is happening to him. When my 10 year old daughter saw it, she asked if she could also read it. I’ll certainly allow it but want to her also be informed, so I’ll look at getting her the Care & Keeping Of™ series or a different type book which overs things relating to her.
Some takeaways I took from Decoding Boys and Dr. Natterson’s TedX talk include: ask them questions but let them talk. A tip she gave was don’t make eye contact (makes them more comfortable and be sure no screens are in their hands – they will be 100% distracted! A little prodding, they’ll open. In fact, I think my first “talk” went quite well… he was very curious. I know this is not going to be the norm – but I know I should NOT GO AWAY! I’ll give him privacy, knock before entering (have to work at that one). I understand he’ll be moody and needs his own space, lots of food and we all need patience!
Do you have any books (or sites) which you recommend for helping guide boys (and me) through puberty?
Update: I was taking with a Dutch friend here about getting a book for my 11 year old daughter and she recommended to me Het Puberbook – written by Sanderijn Van de Doef. I’ve attached a few photos for you see – how it is VERY detailed and also very factual. It touches on a lot of the things the above book doesn’t. One catch, it is only in Dutch, so wouldn’t work well for those who cannot read it.