All babies cry. Boy babies, girl babies, they all cry. We know this, but at some point it becomes socially unacceptable for boys to cry. When boys don’t have the opportunity to process or find support for their emotions, they often turn to unhealthy alternatives like violence and addiction The social stigma surrounding boys who cry is hurting them.
I went to a book group full of women I respect and admire last week. We had a delightful time. At one point, one of the moms told a story about watching her son 11 year old son cry at a Boy Scout meeting because he couldn’t figure out how to tie some of the knots they were working on. She described how uncomfortable his tears made everyone. The man in charge of the knot tying station wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. She wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. No one knew what to do.
I imagine if it had been her daughter crying the situation wouldn’t have been noteworthy. A group of people would have surrounded her daughter to support and help her work through the struggle. But because it was her son, and boys aren’t supposed to cry; no one did anything.
I was shocked when nearly every woman in the room agreed there is definitely going to come a point when they will have to teach their boys it’s not okay to cry in public anymore. This is wrong, but it’s not entirely our fault. It’s in the air we breathe. The same way we inhale the belief that girls need to be beautiful, we inhale the belief that boys need to be unemotional. These beliefs are hurting our children. The need to change the conversation about girls has gained momentum, but we need to change the conversation about boys too.
Boys need the opportunity to connect and make close friends the same way girls do. They need the opportunity to reach out for help and find support the same way girls do. Not having close friends is dangerous to their health. Constantly needing to project a masculine, invulnerable self image is isolating and correlates with increased depression, stress, risk of mortality and risk for harmfulself medication (including pornography). A lack of close friends has been shown to be as dangerous for your health as smoking.
Men tend to have few deep emotional connections with other men. They aren’t born this way though. Young boys often have several close friends, but by the time they become a pre-teen, they have usually learned showing emotion and and asking for support is no longer appropriate for them.
Life is not easy for anyone. Everyone has stressful, depressing and lonely times. Everyone needs the opportunity to seek appropriate emotional support during tough stretches. Don’t teach your son to stop crying. Instead, teach him how to cultivate relationships so he will have friends and loved ones he can go to when he needs support. Teach him to build a network of people who can help him when he’s scared, sad or frustrated. He will be healthier for it.
- Wiseman, Rosalind. Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World. Print. BACK TO POST
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- Mcpherson, Miller. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.” American Sociological Review 71.3 (2006): 353-75. JSTOR. Web. 24 June 2015. BACK TO POST