The penis advice columnDear Marilyn,

My almost 5 year old keeps having erections and is complaining that it’s hurting. Is that normal for an intact kiddo? My oldest is circed as is hubby so this is new to me and hubby. What can I do to help him?

—Emily in Indiana

Dear Emily,

How does your son’s penis look? Are there any changes in his foreskin? Is it red or swollen? If not, then your son’s painful erections may need to be directly addressed. Erections are normal and begin in babies in utero. If your son’s erections are painful, then the development of his penis needs to be explained to him. When he understands that at birth the foreskin is usually non-retractile because the foreskin and glans (head of the penis) are attached when they develop. These two structures will separate over time. Once the foreskin and glans separate, the foreskin becomes retractable. As the foreskin becomes retractable, erections may cause sensations as the foreskin separates from the glans or because the opening of the foreskin is not yet large enough to accommodate retraction of the glans. Discussion of these aspects of his penile development should help determine where the pain is coming from so that your son can consider and accept the sensations as a part of the developmental process or something that needs to be addressed.