Adolescence can be a turbulent time for many. There are several issues which are characteristic of this formative stage, including those related to self-identity, mood swings, relationships and adoption of unhealthy habits such as substance abuse. Boys and girls cope differently with such challenges. On top of it stereotypes forced onto them by society can complicate things such as the expectation that boys become strong and masculine. This could result in them denying their basic personality and become someone they are not. It is typical of teen boys to exhibit flashes of behavior which demonstrate aggression, violence and strength. Often when boys express emotions such as sadness, pain or suffering, they are labeled weak. This could result in them refraining from disclosing their feelings. The fact that media and popular literature supports such ideas also complicates matters.
This can also have adverse consequences. In the absence of an outlet to express their emotions freely, teen boys may experience extreme loneliness and isolation. Studies have pointed out that young males have consistently higher suicide rates than females. Further, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are often overlooked in teen boys.
As the United States celebrates National Happiness Happens Day on Aug. 8, youngsters should take a moment to reflect on the importance of being happy by openly expressing their feelings and giving vent to their emotions. Happiness is unlimited and contagious. Parents and educators can especially help teen boys in expressing their feelings so that they can be emotionally secure and happy.
Better emotional health during adolescence reflects in adulthood
Teen boys who can freely express a multitude of emotions in healthy ways will have better mental health not just during adolescence but also in adulthood. Past research shows that the progression from boyhood into adolescence, in some, is marked by a higher level of toughness, detachment from friends and emotional unavailability. Helping preteen and teen boys counter such internalizing behavior is important to improve their mental well-being as they transition into adulthood.
Parents and educators can use the following tips to encourage young boys to be more open about their feelings:
- Enabling circumstances: Conversations at relaxed family meetings or at dinnertime can make boys feel comfortable in opening up regarding any issue. Regularly spending a few minutes every day with adolescent boys gives them the confidence to bring up troubling issues with parents.
- Display of negative emotions: Since parents are the role models for their children, they should express their negative emotions (such as sadness or frustration) in healthy ways. This is also important to make children deal with their own negative emotions in appropriate ways.
- Non-verbal reactions: Parents need to be mindful of nonverbal reactions to their sons’ emotional expressions. Rolling eyes or sighs of exasperation may contradict parents’ verbal assurances and result in more confusion for teen boys.
- Peer relationships: Although relationships with all genders are important, boys can significantly benefit from friendships with other boys, possibly when they share similar experiences. Close friendships in teen years are generally sustained as healthy relationships in adulthood. However, parents and guardians must ensure that their child stays in good company.
- Supportive teachers: Research shows that happier students are more inclined to report positive relationships with their teachers. Many students’ anxiety regarding school work and tests is not related to total school hours or the frequency of tests but to their perception of support from their teachers and schools.
Road to recovery
Masculinity for boys needs to be redefined to include empathy, expression and compassion. For this to happen, social and cultural stereotypes need to be challenged. Parents also need to use the right words and convey the right nonverbal signals to their sons to reinforce the importance of healthy emotional living. The fact that fathers are increasingly playing an equal role in parenting can help to expand adolescent boys’ notions of masculinity.
White River Academy is among the leading therapeutic boarding schools which help vulnerable teens cope with the stresses of adolescence. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, the school’s experts follow a holistic approach in helping teenage boys achieve optimum emotional well-being. If you are looking for therapeutic residential schools for your teen son, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our experts to know more.