It can be hard for teen boys to share their feelings with their parents, teachers, friends and even a therapists. Sharing feelings is one of the best ways to know what teens are dealing with and what problems and concerns they may have. A lack of this communications makes it hard for others to know how to help.
Social and Cultural Pressure to Be Tough
Western society doesn’t put much value on the idea of men and boys being able to discuss their emotions or have deep feelings. Instead, it’s seen as macho and strong to ignore feelings and simply carry on. However, when teens do share their feelings, they often get mocked, ridiculed and even bullied. Parents can sometimes be uncomfortable when their teenage boys share their feelings, and not know how to handle the conversations.
There are plenty of messages in the media and in their real lives that work against encouraging teenage boys to naturally talk about their feelings to a licensed therapist. Movie heroes, sports stars and others are praised for keeping it all together and not talking about their issues. The message is repeated on the local level as high school cliques, peer pressure and more send the message that boys need to be tough and distant from their feelings. After a lifetime of receiving signals to keep their emotions and feelings tucked away from society and from their family, it’s no wonder that teenage boys struggle with opening up.
Struggles for Independence
Another reason why teen boys don’t talk about their feelings freely is because they want to prove that they are well on their way to becoming adult men. Many boys mistakenly receive the message that being vulnerable is considered weak and not appropriate for adult men. As teen boys fight for their independence and desperately try to prove to themselves, their parents and their friends that they are indeed grown up, they actively eliminate the things in their lives that might get them labeled as weak or babyish. Sharing their feelings definitely falls into that category.
How Parents Can Help
Parents can help their teenage boys feel comfortable enough to express their feelings in several ways. By setting the example first, fathers and mothers can express their own feelings and show their children that there’s nothing wrong with emotions. Parents can also take the time to point out cultural stereotypes that perpetuate the tough guy image. Yet another thing parents can do is to learn their son’s love language—the way that they express and feel love. Examples include words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch and more. Sometimes, teen boys feel more comfortable writing or drawing their emotions rather than having a face to face conversation. No matter what challenges they face, parents should keep trying to get their teenage boys to open up about their emotions. It’s not healthy to keep everything bottled up inside, because then the emotions burst out in unhealthy ways. Because mental health and wellness is so important to both teen boys and teen girls, parents need to establish channels of communication with their teenagers so they can be alerted as to when they need help.