While looking for other information about teens and health care I found a great article at Tolerance.org entitled, "Guiding our sons from boyhood to manhood - Paul Kivelidentifies four things every emerging man needs." It was an interesting read and an opportunity to think about the fact that so much adolescent research and thought goes into adolescent girls, and that there is very little work around boys and their particular issues.
Mr Kivel addresses the age-old dilemma about whether to let "boys be boys," or help them to become strong, creative, caring, and healthy men. Not raising boys, I am struck by how difficult this must be for a parent. Raising men whose gender roles are flexible, who is confident, and yet sensitive, but not teased as a sissy, or momma's boy, sounds like quite a challenge. There is a lot of social and media influence suggesting that "to be a man," boys should not cry, or back down, are in control, take charge, are responsible, have a lot of sex, and desire to have a lot of money. In his article, Mr. Kivel suggests that whenever boys try to act differently, there are many cultural pressures to stick with the stereotypes.
I am wondering how difficult it is to actually discuss with boys the gender role training they are receiving both at home and from media, books, movies, peers, and sports. As a parent, I find it easy to guide my daughters - they see me taking care of others, balancing my responsibilities between family and work, volunteering at their school, doing community service, and taking care of myself. It is part of my daily life and theirs to worry about others, talk about things, and share our feelings. Is that so much different when raising boys?
In the article, Mr. Kivel suggests that boys need to practice expressing their feelings; a chance to nurture; someone to talk with about the hard stuff; and a chance to make a difference in their community. The burden is on parents to make sure that their sons are being allowed to just focus on sports and traditionally male endeavors, they must be given an opportunity to nurture a pet or younger siblings, express their feelings through art, music, dance, or via dialogue, and get involved with community service in a meaningful way, not just to satisfy a community service requirement for college entrance.
I send blessings to parents raising boys - I hope you have a lot of support!