Raising teen boys is quite an experience, and it can be difficult to help boys express emotions. Many parents think that bringing up boys is easy because they don’t have as much drama going on as teen girls. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They do have drama, they just express it differently.
Unfortunately, society teaches boys that they have to be strong and stoic. They are discouraged from expressing any emotions that indicate vulnerability like fear, intimidation or sadness. Showing such feelings is considered a sign of weakness. The only emotions they are encouraged to express are anger and aggression so they learn to tamp down or ignore all other emotions.
However, suppressing emotions creates a whole new set of problems including depression, poor sleep quality, mood swings or even physical ailments. Additionally, it robs them of the ability to have rich emotional lives and to form deep connections and relationships with others.
To avoid this, it’s crucial for us to help our sons learn how to freely express their emotions. Here are 6 ways to help boys express emotions that:
1. Expand their emotional vocabulary.
Starting from when he’s young, equip your child with a varied emotional vocabulary. Since babies and toddlers don’t have words for their feelings, they need to be taught. You can say things like, “You look happy today” or “You must feel sad” and eventually, your boy will learn to correctly identify and recognize his feelings.
2. Set a good example of emotional expression.
Many times we hide our emotions from our kids, especially negative ones because we feel that they’ll be overwhelmed. On the contrary, seeing you comfortably expressing a wide array of emotions, from sadness to joy, can encourage your son to be more expressive as well. It’s also important for him to see you handling negative emotions in healthy ways so that he can learn to regulate his own. So be careful how you act when angry or disappointed because your son is watching and he’ll take his cues from you.
3. Give your son the freedom to express himself.
Society is constantly ridiculing and judging teen boys who choose to express their feelings. Counter this by making your home a place where your son feels safe embracing and exploring all his emotions. Give him the freedom to be himself and don’t curtail his emotional expression by trying to dictate the feelings that he should convey.
4. Listen to him.
One of the simplest ways to encourage emotional expression and to improve communication with your teen is to listen to him without judgment. This means giving him your complete attention when he is sharing his feelings and not jumping in with comments, advice or suggestions. Paying attention to your son validates his feelings and sends a message that you consider what he’s saying important. This will encourage him to open up and share more with you.
5. Establish boundaries.
Encouraging your boy to express his emotions doesn’t mean condoning aggressive actions. Emphasize that while getting angry is perfectly okay, hitting anyone or insulting them isn’t. He is still responsible for his behavior regardless of whatever emotions he has churning inside him.
6. Teach him to cope with negative emotions.
Negative emotions are a part of life and it’s important for your teen to find healthy ways to express such feelings too. Left unchecked, negative emotions have the potential to wreak havoc in your teen’s life, making him lash out or leaving him overwhelmed. There are different ways for him to deal with emotions such as anger, grief, disappointment, etc. Some of these include talking things over with a trusted adult, releasing these emotions through physical activity or sports or even finding creative outlets like art or music to express himself.
As society does its best to turn our boys into men who are only capable of expressing anger or aggression, it’s up to us to counter this message and help boys express emotions. By teaching our sons to understand, embrace and freely express their emotions in respectful and healthy ways, we’re helping them take steps towards having well-balanced, fulfilling lives.
About the Author
Cindy Price is proud wife and mom to three teenagers. She would like to say she’s a parenting expert but she knows better than to do that. As a parent educator and writer for over 15 years, she’s well-aware how quickly parenting practices evolve. Family is her greatest joy and she hopes her writing can help make families stronger.