“What message are we giving teen boys when we are asking them to hide their feelings of vulnerability?”
When I first started my therapy practice, there was a book called Raising Cain, about “Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.” I liked this book because it honored the feelings of young males and encouraged healthy dialogue about how to deal with their emotions.
Alcohol, drugs and risky behavior are ways in which teen boys often sublimate their emotional pain instead of handling it directly. Acting out their feelings rather than talking them out, they damage relationships with both parents and teachers, and lay a foundation for disconnection and isolation. This stoic approach is putting their wellbeing at serious risk.
Some practical ways of helping today’s teen boys include creating a safe atmosphere where they are more likely to open up — by asking questions and listening, before offering a quick fix. It’s also essential to support these young men in learning how to articulate what they are feeling. Finally, it’s important they understand themselves, including their strengths and vulnerabilities, how their mind works, and what makes them uniquely them.
Courage, empathy and character strength are part of a healthy description of what it takes to be a man. How do we help a young male get from here – to there? We offer them a safe place to land, to authentically be themselves, to fail, and to learn from those failures.
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