Expressing feelings is important for all
As a mum of a boy, one of my biggest fears is that he grows up feeling as though sharing his feelings is not a “manly” thing to do.
At least a few times a week he comes across people outside our home who have adopted society’s old-fashioned standards of how a male should look or act.
He’ll wear bright pink shorts while swimming because I can spot him better — and he’ll be asked why he wears “girl’s colours” while being unaware there is such a thing.
He ties his long hair up every day and is often mistaken for a girl. Even those familiar to him, from classmates to adults, have made remarks that he “looks like a girl”. Thankfully he never seems to let it bother him, correcting anyone before going about as normal.
What I admire most is, that as an impressionable 9-year-old boy, he doesn’t let people’s comments make him doubt his decision to grow his hair.
So far, society’s old-fashioned views haven’t been able to narrow his open mind.
And luckily, the world my son is growing up in is becoming more openminded as time goes on — but this type of narrow-minded thinking still exists, which is both sad and dangerous.
With this way of thinking, we’re grooming young boys to suppress their emotions.
If they start crying or expressing themselves, some are told they should “stop crying like a girl” or “stop acting like a girl”.
Those are some extremely dangerous words to be saying to any boy, or girl for that matter! It’s teaching them that crying or expressing their emotions is wrong, shutting them down and making them feel as though they should always hold those feelings in. And that’s not okay.
And what are we telling our young women by saying these things in such a negative way?
How will we, as parents, siblings, friends and loved ones know how and when to help people in need if they don’t feel as though they can share what’s going on in their minds?
This week, television broadcaster Greg Boyed died suddenly while holidaying in Switzerland. His family says he had battled depression and many friends have come out wishing they could have helped or been there when he needed them to be. Mental health experts say we need to reach out to people suffering from illnesses such as depression.
But we all have a responsibility to make sure our words aren’t teaching our boys something different.
Instead of teaching our boys to suppress their feelings, we should be embracing them, teaching them to articulate themselves in a way that will allow them to be heard. And we want that education to remain with them through manhood.
We want our men or women to know their worth and to know it’s important to share when they’re not okay.
We’ll all be thankful when they do. * Kristin Macfarlane is an NZME journalist.