Puberty - Talk About It
A mother wrote:
My son is a good happy erlich boy. No exposure to magazines or computers. We live in a chasidish neighborhood so he doesn't get to see too much pritzus. I notice he has nocturnal emissions often. How often is normal? Also my younger son who is his roommate commented that he sometimes see him move around a lot (in ways that could be indicative of masturbation) before he falls asleep. Does this need to be addressed?
We wrote to R' Avi Landa, Mashgiach in TA in Baltimore, who has a lot of experience in this area. We told him that we have these two articles (see below) but that they probably don't address this particular situation, and we asked him what he would suggest.
Rav Landa responded:
These articles provide some resources and knowledge. I think in this case the main intervention should be a good talk with the boy. A younger child (11-13) might be more ok with the talk being had with one of his parents. A boy a little older more often might prefer someone else they can talk to. Either way the parent should approach the child at a quiet and peaceful time (at home or maybe out on a short trip) and in a private and kind way mention that they noticed the boy maturing, and how proud they are of (give examples). Then they should transition to the maturation of the body as well and whether the boy is thinking or experiencing anything different at this time or recently. Hopefully they will get at least a pause, and that's all you need. At that point (since the parent knows for sure that some form of emission, or masturbation is going on), the parent can jump in and say, I (or tatty) would love to have a talk with you about what is happening in your body and why. I can also arrange for you to speak to a Rav, Rebbi, Mashgiach, regarding this topic. It is important for you to understand these inyanim from the true Torah perspective. A time and place should be discussed at that point with no discussion regarding whether the talk will happen but rather when and where and with whom. He can certainly have time (few days) to think about the answers to those questions. To be clear, you are not asking him, would you like to have this talk (it is naturally uncomfortable and he will probably say no thanks)?
It is totally normal for a maturing boy to have emissions. Nocturnal emissions usually refers to a boy having a dream which excites him in the sexual realm to the point of zera coming out, pretty much while he is sleeping (or perhaps wakes up briefly from it). It very well might be that he is masturbating from time to time in bed. Again this is normal adolescent behavior, but since he is then causing it to happen it is assur (the nocturnal emissions might be assur as well if he has thoughts during the day that lead to the emissions at night). Frequency of both emissions, and masturbation vary greatly. It would be wise to keep a basic count throughout a few weeks, of how often you notice it (and once the boy is cooperating and working on it, he can let you know) and discuss with a medical professional to make sure it isn't something to be concerned about.
The approach in my opinion (for the masturbation piece or the thinking during the day that might be bringing on the emissions at night) is for him to have a working understanding of what is going on and why with a person he can continue the conversation with easily and comfortably. This person should then implement strategies with the boy to attempt to decrease the frequency of it happening while also delaying each time it occurs. The goal is to build self control in this area. It is hard but doable, and the longer you wait to work on it the harder it gets. An example of some of these interventions can be found in the first article you linked to, by Dr. Twerski.
His sheltered environment is a wonderful thing. BH he is a healthy maturing boy developing interests and desires which imy"H will be used and directed towards avodas Hashem in building his own bayis through marriage.
Avi Landa MS, LCPC, NCC
Talmudical Academy of Baltimore Middle School Mashgiach