As a mom raising all fellas, I often reflect on what it means to raise a boy to become a man. I think of men who have impacted my life and the example our sons have in my hubby. Men who are strong, intelligent, aware, empathetic, compassionate, giving, kind, and loving. Above all, men who love God and love people. So, it’s no surprise I think of how we are raising emotionally healthy boys.
From the moment our sons are younger, we nurture and physically care for them making sure they meet developmental milestones. We do all we can to ensure their brains are developing properly. We focus on their word usage, their motor skills, and other physical markers.
But learning what we can do to meet the emotional needs of our sons and giving them the tools to respond to their emotions in a healthy way doesn’t happen so naturally for many of us.
Focusing on how to help our sons process intense emotions in healthy ways is a vital skill that starts at home. Our sons, especially as they grow older, are getting mixed messages on who they should be, how they should act, and how they should feel. Now, more than ever, our sons need us to help guide them.
Every day our sons are caught in a world of distractions, self-gratification, and instant results. They live in a society that thrives off offense. The world wants to define and influence the emotional health of our sons.
Our sons’ emotional health is influenced by something or someone—whether that’s their friends, television, teachers, or you.
Choose to make their primary influence for developing healthy ways to respond to emotions to come from you (and your spouse)—the people God specifically placed in your son’s life to love, guide, protect, and develop him physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Our sons need our voices and our direction.
Whether you are a momma of a young fella or if your fella is a teen, we can start today to shift the narrative and help our sons to deal with their emotions in a healthy way.
Be open about your feelings
As an emotionally healthy adult, we can show our sons that it’s normal to feel both positive and negative emotions by being vulnerable and transparent. If we choose to be open about WHAT we feel and HOW we deal with those emotions, we are allowing them to learn from our example.
Make no doubt about it; they are indeed learning from us.
Our sons are quite observant. They pay attention to how we respond to stress, disappointment, frustrations, and failure.
What are you teaching?
Now, I will be the first to say I had to take a hard look at myself. I was not doing the best job showing our sons how to deal with frustrations and stress. If I wanted to teach them how to develop their emotions in a healthy way, then I needed to make changes in how I was handling my emotional responses.
This friend is the hard work.
I had to make changes in the example I was setting for our sons. Maybe you feel the same way too.
Choosing to pause when you start become sarcastic, taking a deep breathe when you are about to yell, or refraining from making a snide comment take intentional effort. If we want our children to develop emotionally healthy responses, start with how we handle our responses.
Think about how emotions are expressed in your home, especially feelings of sadness, frustration, stress, and disappointment. Think about how you handle mistakes.
If we choose to directly reveal and process how we handle our emotions with our sons, we are giving them the tools to process their feelings. Let them see you vulnerable, allow them to see you work through the pain, and allow them to walk with you in your faith.
Taking the time to include them in your process helps them to see what is to call on God, to surrender to His will, and to seek direction in His word. They get to see you feel deep emotions and handle them with self-control.
Our example sets the tone for their emotional health. Lead well.
Play is a powerful tool to build your son’s emotional and social skills to interact in the world in a healthy way. When our son’s play, they practice empathy, learn self-regulation, and can increase their self-esteem.
Spending time each week playing board games, getting outside to play a sport, or even playing an instrument encourages our sons to interact with others in a healthy way. They learn listening skills, encourage curiosity, and showing compassion to others. Knowing how to respond in an emotionally healthy way helps them to build relationships and show positive showmanship.
Play is a simple way to help lower your son’s defenses to talk about complex emotions and process their feelings in a healthy way. Even something as simple as going for a walk can have a positive impact on our son’s emotional wellbeing.
Play provides a safe place where our sons naturally start to open up about their days, their relationships, and their emotions. When we choose to use play as an ongoing part of our relationship with our sons, they get to encounter and learn how to problem solve in the safety of home.
Home is the best place to teach our children healthy ways to process winning and how to process losing. When our sons begin to play sports competitively, learning how to deal with loss can result in some negative emotions and emotional responses. Using play in the home helps us to educate and equip our sons with the resilience necessary to respond to loss and how to win without being a jerk.
Although telling your fellas to get outside and play with others is good, getting up to go outside and play with your son is better. Play the sport, play the video game, play the music they like.
Empower them to set healthy boundaries
Raising emotionally healthy sons requires teaching them how to make and maintain their boundaries.
As their momma, it’s easy for me to want to tell my fellas what boundaries they should have and how they should respond with other people. Although that may fix the current situation in my presence, our sons don’t learn how to develop emotionally healthy boundaries on their own.
Spend time talking with your son about behaviors that make him feel heard, appreciated, valued, and loved. Then discuss what makes your son feel frustrated, unseen, unappreciated, and disrespected. When our sons are unable to identify these differences, they are not able to create boundaries that will help them develop emotionally healthy relationships with family and friends.
Teaching our sons how to create boundaries and maintain boundaries will aid them in being able to communicate when those boundaries have been violated. We want to teach our children the importance of being aware and honoring the boundaries of others while also not becoming a pushover or seeking validation in others.
Boundaries help our sons to self-advocate without reacting with harsh words or violence.
Teaching boundaries starts right in our homes. Whether it’s teaching them the importance of knocking to enter someone’s room or acknowledging another person’s emotion, we get to use our regular family interactions as learning moments to helping our sons learn healthy boundaries.
One resource I recommend for teaching boundaries is Dr. Henry Cloud’s Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children.
Raising sons who can communicate and process their emotions in a healthy way grow up to become fathers who can do the same for their children. We can help shift the narrative.
Cheering you on momma,