Teenage boys: They need a voice too
Talking to anyone about our worries can often seem an impossible step to take - especially for teenage boys. Boys can be just as sensitive as girls about their problems. Being bullied or feeling unfairly treated are common experiences. The trouble is, boys may not feel they can be as open as girls about these sorts of issues. They may well have learnt that they need to 'man up' - and the safest way to do this to keep their feelings to themselves.
Teenage boys can also find it challenging to cry. Crying is a visible sign of how we feel. But keeping tears at bay does not mean young people don't have any worries. Their deep frustrations may manifest themselves in behaving in ways that seem sullen, rude and hostile.
- They may self harm.
- They may behave 'out of character'.
- They may lock themselves away in their rooms for hours and hours.
- They may appear to cut themselves off from their family and their friends.
Teenage boys may act tough in public in order to give the impression they know how to handle themselves. But there is often an inner conflict going on: acting 'cool' on the outside whilst trembling with fear on the inside. Sadly, some teenagers have been on the receiving end of all sorts of negative experiences e.g. emotional and physical abuse, rejection, feeling abandoned.
When we turn our feelings inwards this can sometimes lead to depression. Depression is sometimes experienced as 'repressed anger'. It is not surprising then that such 'anger' can be expressed in unexpected ways. Parents may not recognise this state of mind - simply because they cannot 'see' what lies beneath such extreme anti-social behaviour.
Sadly, suicide rates amongst young men are disproportionately high. So it is important that significant others in the young teen's life are alert to reading the warning signs in a way which is both sensitive and supportive.
I believe that young men can learn how to deal with overwhelming emotions, low self-esteem and low confidence in ways which are constructive and empowering. Perhaps the hardest part is the initial step: getting the young person to talk to someone. The next hurdle may be getting them to engage.
Taking time to persuade the young person to seek help may prove to be very beneficial to them in the long run.