More and more people are noticing the lack of motivation, emotional confusion, and displaced energy exhibited by teenaged boys and young men in our society. The startling statistics keep coming in (for every 100 females ages 15-19 that commit suicide, 549 males in the same range kill themselves; for every 100 girls diagnosed with a special education disability, 217 boys are diagnosed with a special education disability; for every 100 women enrolled in college, there are 78 men enrolled), and the smash comedies keep coming out (Failure to Launch, Knocked Up, Hall Pass), and new theories as to why keep coming up (testosterone deficiency, video games and social media, educational system). Everyone everywhere is trying to figure this thing out. In the meantime, the sons of our society are suffering. So what can we do right now to help? Here are three simple things you can do today to help your son’s true light come shining thru.
But not your typical questions. “Where were you last night?” “Did you clean your room?” They hate those. Instead, move towards questions that cause him to reflect upon deeper human feelings such as compassion, honor or responsibility. The next time the unmotivated male in your life is active and talking, ask him: “What was your most physically painful experience?” “What do you look for in a romantic partner?” “In your opinion, what makes a man, a man?” You may be pleasantly surprised by the answers, and he may be surprised that you care enough to ask.
I hear it all day from the high schooled age males I work with. “Really? You know about that!” Whether it’s Black Ops II (video games), A$AP Rocky (underground hip-hop), or Instagram (you should know), try to stay in the know. But more importantly it’s really about knowing the young man’s passion. Once it is discovered or revealed, feel free to challenge him to move forward with it, even if you have reason to believe it’s not a passion. Once I challenged a young man to become a professional gamer if he loved video games so much. He is now a college student, studying art. He realized that his passion was creating, and it was often the video games’ brilliant colors and graphics that held him captive for days on end.
Many males cry out for help well in advance. However, too often it occurs out of anger, and sounds like: “I don’t want to talk about it!” “You don’t get it!” “I don’t care!” And because of this, the cries often go unheard. Always be aware that, unfortunately, our society’s gender politics leave many males unskilled or feeling unsafe in the expression of emotions other than anger or exuberance. The next time anger shows up in conversation, be aware that another emotion may be hiding beneath it. However, do not add more shame to the situation by pointing out these underground emotions, simply approach the conversation mindfully with this discovery in mind. Eventually, the atmosphere of safety and compassion will allow the buried emotion to surface.
“Where there is one suffering, we are all suffering.” Whether or not you just noticed it today or it has been years, it’s never too late to help the young men in your life develop into the great men that they have the potential to become. Begin by using these simple tools, and don’t be afraid to seek out professional help if it’s needed. In the end, your son, and our world, may become a bit brighter.
Written by Brentom Jackson, RYT, LPC-Intern
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