Boys need to know talk­ing about feel­ings is okay

Manawatu Guardian - - NEWS - Kristin Mac­far­lane

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 of 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 “girls’ 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 sorts of 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.

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