Teach boys to show emotions

Nancy Daley Fulton

The challenges that many children face can feel overwhelming.
Societal norms teach girls that it is okay for them to express their feelings; however, these norms teach boys that “real men” are tough and don’t show their emotions.
In reality, unexpressed anger, sadness, fear, or frustration may have negative repercussions on a young boy’s behaviour, mental health, and development.
Symptoms of mental illness in boys may look like “typical teenager” behaviour, leaving mental illness unnoticed for many years.
Symptoms of mental illness may include:
•risky behaviour;
•substance abuse;
•conflict with others or the law;
•impulsivity; and/or
•inability to focus
What can we do?
•Teach boys to take care of themselves
If we teach young boys healthy coping skills and self-care practices, they will be better prepared to recognize unhealthy thoughts and behaviours as teenagers and adults.
•Early intervention
Catching the signs of mental illness early and providing treatment can empower both boys and girls, and increase the quality of their lives throughout their lives.
•Change the message
Let’s change the messages men and boys receive so they can learn some new lessons.
Let’s show them that:
•it’s okay for boys and men to express their emotions;
•it’s necessary for boys and men to take care of themselves;
•work-life balance is important for men, too; and
•success can be defined by their own criteria, which may include mental health, healthy relationships, and happiness.
Editor’s note: Mental Health Week runs May 4-10.