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As boys enter puberty, they will start to experience erections.


An erection is when the penis becomes hard and stiff. It is caused by blood flowing into the tissue of the penis causing it to become thicker, longer and stiffer. When this blood flow stops the erection goes away. Boys can have erections from birth, but they happen more often during puberty.

Some erections can be caused by sexual arousal, while others can happen unexpectedly or when a person wakes up. This is normal.

It is important to teach your child about erections so they know what they are and what they should or should not do when they have one.

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Erections can be embarrassing when they happen unexpectedly and in public. It can be helpful for your child to know what to do if they get an erection in public. Some things they can try are:

  • Putting a bag, jumper or book on their lap
  • Tying a jumper around their waist to cover their penis
  • Doing activities to help take their mind off their erection can make it go away faster. For example, playing a game on their phone or tablet, or counting their fingers and toes
  • Wearing shirts that can be untucked or are long enough to cover the erection

It is important to reinforce to your child that erections are private. They involve a private body part and should only be touched in a private place. Most children will discover that touching their erect penis feels good, so teaching about erections should be accompanied by teaching about the rules of masturbation.

Talking about erections is also private. Reinforce this by keeping conversations about erections private too.

Conversation Starters

There are lots of different changes happening to your body right now. You might notice that your penis is hard and stiff in the morning. That is OK. It’s a normal part of growing up. It means your penis is healthy.
All boys have erections. It is normal. It means you are becoming an adult. Who can you talk to if you have questions about erections?
Remember how we talked about your penis being a private body part. You have to be in a private place to touch your penis. This includes when you get an erection.

Strategies for you to try

Talk soon and often

It can be a good idea to talk to your child about erections before puberty starts. Talking about erections ahead of time gives your child time to understand what is going to happen and to feel more prepared. They will know that what is happening is normal and OK. You can use some of the resources listed below to help you find the right words to talk about erections with your child.

Public and private

Revisit private and public with your child. Remind them that the penis is a private body part and touching it is a private behaviour that can only happen in a private place. You can use the private and public sorting game to go over these concepts again.

Social stories

Use social stories like the ones listed below or create your own using the downloadable images listed below to show your child what to do if they get an erection in public.

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Introduction to puberty for girls

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Introduction to puberty for boys

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