My three sons range in ages from 10 to 16. I guess you could say that we're in the thick of puberty at our house.
My boys remind me of the bowls of porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears: one son is too hot (he really digs girls), one is too cold (he hates girls), and one is just right (he is utterly indifferent to girls).
For parents of oily, pubescent boys, it's all about balance. You want your son to acquire a healthy attraction to girls, but preferably at arm's length. You want him to gain social skills, mingle and enjoy girls' friendships, but in a PG-rated way.
What can we, as parents, do to help our sons through puberty?
Keep tabs on his whereabouts
Adolescent kids need some independence, but within parameters. Get to know your son's friends and find out what they do when they hang out. Communicate with his friends' parents. Set guidelines on curfews and make sure your son understands the ramifications of experimenting with pornography, drugs and alcohol.
Be available to answer questions
Some boys are clams and others are wide open books. If your son is of the clam variety, every once in a while casually suggest, "You know, if you ever have any questions about your body you can ask me." Let him know that you're open to discussing whatever he'd like to bring up. In such instances, be sure to keep an open, neutral expression. Looking shocked or amused will probably scare him away and prevent further conversations.
Keep your home PG rated
Boys are bombarded with images and messages that objectify girls and women. At school, in the media, and all around, modesty in dress (and behavior) is lacking. Parents can make home a refuge from the images that constantly barrage boys.
A few years ago, I decided to nix some popular reality TV shows because of the contestants' skimpy outfits. That may seem extreme, but I realized that it wasn't worth it for me to feel uncomfortable watching the four guys in my house ogle the pretty, mostly naked women on our TV several nights a week.
You can't always control what they look at, but you can be choosy about the movies, TV shows, magazines, and video games that you allow in your home.
Patrol his iPod
If your son has his own computer or handheld electronic device, set ground rules. Let him know that as his parent, you're entitled to periodically check his device. Read his texts, search his Internet history and check out his apps. Your son may feel invaded, but just smile sweetly and remind him that you're just doing your job. Remember, kids actually appreciate boundaries. They help them feel more secure.
Build him up
The adolescent years are challenging and emotional. Your son will go through plenty of periods of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Express your love to him. Tell him how proud you are. Praise his efforts with school, sports and his hobbies. Be on the sidelines at his soccer games or chess matches. He may not show it, but he needs you now more than ever.
With their hormones, acne, appetites and emotions, guiding boys through puberty isn't a picnic. Add the complication of girls to the mix and your son's world becomes really unsettled. Be there for him. Remember to keep the end in sight as you help him become the best young man he can be.