Y’all remember my blog post about Logan Everett, right? American Girl’s first-ever boy doll? Well…ta da! In yet another first, they’ve just published a book for guys!
Written by Cara Natterson
GUY STUFF is a down-to-earth, quick read that covers everything boys want to know about their developing minds and bodies–from healthy eating to hygiene, hormones, emotions and peer pressure, GUY STUFF covers it all. And psst, because I know you were wondering: American Girl isn’t mentioned on the cover, the title page–anywhere, for that matter. This is a boy book, through and through.
Illustrations by Micah Player
Whew! It’s about time, don’t you think? As a proud mama of two sons, I searched high and low for books like this. Slim pickings, back in the day. But here’s to life, always changing for the better! And hurray for American Girl, stepping up to meet that need.
I think GUY STUFF fills a very important space, on bookshelves and in family conversations. But as Lavar Burton of Reading Rainbow used to say, “Don’t take my word for it!” Professionals like Dr. Catherine Pearlman* wholeheartedly agree.
I’ve invited Catherine to join me in The Author’s Tent, to share her unique perspectives on this book. She’s my friend, but she’s also the founder of The Family Coach and an author in her own right, having just released the critically acclaimed IGNORE IT. Hope you enjoy our Q & A session below And don’t miss the Lightning Round at the end!
Q: How can a book like Guy Stuff help kids and parents talk about puberty?
Catherine: Talking about our bodies can be difficult for grown-ups as well as for kids. Sometimes there’s shame and embarrassment. Often parents don’t feel comfortable using proper names for genitalia. Some parents may also be scared to talk about the changes coming for boys. Believe it or not some parents might not even know what to expect during puberty. Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys can facilitate the learning process and open up the discussion for both parents and boys. The book offers an excellent introduction to all that is to come for boys. It covers hormones, physical changes, acne, hair, self-care and much more. The pictures and tone are upbeat, nonthreatening and fun. This book provides an easy introduction that many parents and boys will appreciate partly because it is so well done. The cartoon drawings are adorable but informative.
Why do they even need a book?
For many parents talking about puberty is a struggle. Parents might not be sure when to start or what to say. Likewise, boys might have a hard time asking questions directly to their parents due to embarrassment. But puberty doesn’t wait for parents to become ready to talk. And if boys don’t learn all about the changes from their parents they will likely learn from the kids at school. The problem is often boys are misinformed or only know parts of the truth. Some points may be exaggerated or presented in a scary manner. Other important points may be skipped altogether. The book is such a helpful guide for parents. Sure, the talk can happen without the book. But it just helps parents know all of the topics to cover.
How do parents know when it’s time to introduce this book?
There is such a wide range of ages when boys begin to go through puberty. And it moves at a snail’s pace. Still, it’s important to introduce the concepts of puberty before it begins. This book is geared for boys in the 9 – 12 year old range. In my opinion, 12 is much too late to begin to have the puberty discussion because even if your child isn’t there yet, one of his friends could be. It’s better to be proactive telling boys all they need to know so they are ready when it begins. I’d begin thinking about the talk and book around 9-10 years old.
Should parents just give it to kids or review it together?
It really depends on the particulars. Parents should feel free to review this book with their sons. However, Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys could easily be read and understood by a boy in the recommended age range. It would be perfectly appropriate to give a boy this book. He will secretly devour it. But if a parent doesn’t review it with the child it would be a good idea to make sure the boy knows the parent is open to discussion or questions any time. And I’d recommend the parent following up every now and then to see if any new questions or concerns turn up. One main benefit of this book is that it’s incredibly useful if a parent or child is too bashful to discuss puberty.
What should parents do if they are too embarrassed to talk to their kids about puberty and the birds and bees?
There are two good options here. The best option is that parents take time to read up about puberty and sex and how to talk about these topics with kids. Being informed can help ease anxiety about the discussion. Ask for help when needed from a doctor or use books and articles to help share information. It’s important to remember the talk about puberty and sex shouldn’t be a one and done kind of talk. It should slowly evolve over time to include more age-appropriate information. It can get easier over time.
The second option is to find another grown up who would be willing to have the talk for you. This isn’t the best option but it’s certainly better than not discussing these issues with kids. For some parents this can be a good option if it is just too uncomfortable to have this discussion.
The worst option is for parents to just avoid discussing the topic altogether. Kids will be forced to learn about their bodies from the bits and pieces their friends bring up on the playground. Or they won’t learn at all. It’s too important to help kids through this process. And it’s even more vital that they know about sexually transmitted diseases, how babies are made and about consent. Don’t leave this up to chance that your son will be informed. Fight through the embarrassment and fear and do it anyway.
Do boys need men to help them learn about their body changes and puberty? What if a parent is a single mother of boys?
Boys absolutely do not need men to learn about their bodies and sex. Sometimes it might be easier for boys to talk to a man who has been through the same experience. But not always. Mothers can do an excellent job relaying this information based on what’s available in books and from their own experience. However, if a mother is taking on this role it’s a good idea to offer a grown man as a possible option for the boy if he has additional questions or concerns.
Thanks for spending time in the Author’s Tent with us today, Catherine. Your answers are as genuine and thoughtful as you are! And now…it’s time for the LIGHTNING ROUND! Whatever pops into your head, give it to us as a one-word answer.
Jersey Subs or California Rolls?
Paddleboard or snowboard?
Favorite American Girl BeForever doll?
*Catherine Pearlman, LCSW, PhD is the founder of The Family Coach, a private practice specializing in helping families resolve everyday problems related to discipline, sleep, and sibling rivalry, among other issues. Her syndicated Dear Family Coach column has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and many regional parenting magazines. She has appeared on TODAY and her advice has been featured in Parenting, Men’s Health and CNN.com. Dr. Pearlman is a licensed clinical social worker who has been working with children and families for more than twenty years. She is an assistant professor of social work at Brandman University, and her new book, IGNORE IT, is widely available.