From the October 2017 issue

Wet Dreams and Boys: How to Deal With This Part of Life

It's totally natural but can be an uncomfortable thing to address with your son. A local expert offers advice.

Hey, mom and dad – let’s talk about ejaculation.

No, seriously. Please do. If you don’t, your teen might be pretty freaked when he wakes up one day wet and stuck to his bed.

When little boys start turning into little men, they may start to experience sexual urges and the totally natural bodily functions that come along with them. And this includes the wet dream – aka a “nocturnal emission.”

While wet dreams are nothing to be ashamed about, the very nature of them could be a bit alarming, especially if junior has no idea what’s going on. So it’s really important that mom or dad discuss it ahead of time.

But we get it – sex and semen can be really uncomfortable topics to talk about with your kid. To get you prepared to get down to the nitty-gritty of wet dreams, we offer a professional’s perspective.

A sticky situation

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Wet dreams are basically nighttime erections and ejaculations that stem from a dream of a sexual nature that the dreamer may or may not remember, according to Rita Patel, the associate program director of the pediatric residency program at Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak.

“If it’s sticky and you don’t think you peed, you’ve probably had a wet dream,” she says.

When it happens, the child will wake up with a sticky, wet half dollar-sized spot in his underwear, pajamas or on his bedsheets, if he doesn’t sleep in underwear.

Not every boy will have wet dreams, but when he does, the doctor notes, “It’s a normal part of puberty and starts when puberty starts kicking in at around 12 or 13.”

And when does the dream end, so to say? Typically when they reach the end of puberty, though some men will still experience them as adults.

Talking points

Puberty is a good place to start your chat.

“Generally, I think it’s part of the whole puberty talk,” Patel says. “(Explain that the child) is growing from being a boy to a man, what happens and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

A good method is to use easier topics like body odor and deodorant or excess hair and shaving to start and work up to wet dreams and other sex-related topics from there.

“Normalize it. Make sure that they understand what’s coming so that there are no big surprises and so that they know that you’ve opened the door and they can talk about it.”

If the conversation turns out to be too much for you or your son to handle, get him a puberty book to read. Make sure that he reads it and talk about it later.

“The worst thing is to have them find out this information from their friends or the internet,” Patel adds. “Parents really need to be the child’s source of information.”

If you miss the boat and junior has a wet dream, don’t ignore it. Admit that you made a mistake in not addressing it, and then explain what happened.

Penile maintenance

The bright side: Wet dream cleanup is a breeze.

“Just have them wash themselves off or take a shower,” Patel says. “If they don’t have time to take a shower, use a washcloth.”

Outside of that, the doctor recommends that the parent gives cleanup duty to the child, but not as a punishment, more as a right of passage.

“Just say that this is a part of growing up – and this is how you use the washing machine,” she says.

Art by Brent Mosser

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