It can be hard for a young boy to understand how to cope with and express his feelings. As adults, we often harbor unrealistic expectations about how quickly a boy will “grow up,” and even subconsciously expect our children to shut down their feelings in order to seem more stoic and mature. We might carelessly say things like “Boys don’t cry,” which only worsens the situation.
In order for you to teach a young boy to handle his feelings in a healthy way, it’s important to have realistic expectations of how a child that age behaves, and provide support and space for your son to work his way through emotional situations as they come up.
Children primarily learn their behavior from imitating their parents. To help make your son feel safe expressing his feelings in your home, you not only need to respect his feelings, but also set an example by being open and expressive about your own. If you are a closed book when it comes to expressing your emotions – the positive as well as the negative – don’t expect your son to grow up to be any different to you.
Be sure to show affection for every member of the family, and also allow yourself to say something when you become frustrated or upset, rather than withdrawing, going silent or leaving the room. By taking care to show your boy what you are feeling and handling it like an adult, you are teaching him how to do the same.
To give a boy the room to talk about his feelings, try to set up situations for what psychologists call “action talk.” Join in on an activity your son likes, strike up a conversation without taking your eyes off of what you’re doing, and see where the conversation takes you. Your son will be distracted by the activity, and will not feel embarrassed or self-conscious about discussing his feelings.
If your son has become very withdrawn for no obvious reason (bullying, stress, divorce etc), and he steadfastly refuses to open up to you, consider ADD treatment or behavior schools. Seeking professional help may be the only way to find out what is really bothering him, and help him to grow up to be a healthy, open individual.