Post by Sara
High school is tough going for everyone, especially for teen boys. The landscape of self-perception is being mapped, as boys try to figure out what kind of men they are going to be. Society offers no clear model for this particular role. Amid this exploration is a battle for survival, often reduced to cliches like peer pressure and being cool. But the reality is nothing so trite and inconsequential. Beyond the jockeying for leadership are decisions about who to follow, who to ignore, and how to pick the right tribe. What we call high school is really a social evolutionary petri dish. In the truest evolutionary fashion, not everyone survives.
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of death among 5 – 14 year-olds, and the third leading cause of death among 15 – 24 year-olds. Never mind the utterly shocking fact that there are enough 5 year-olds taking their own lives that we have statistics to quantify it. The sobering realization is that life only gets harder from there. By the time the survivors of prepubescent childhood reach high school, there is almost as much chance they will kill themselves as there is that someone else will murder them. The only thing killing our kids at a faster rate than suicide and homicide is the automobile.
All this suggests that the biggest crisis faced by teen boys is emotional in nature. Conventional wisdom tells us that men are generally lousy at processing complex emotions. Part of this may be because society seems to frown on men spending too much time developing emotional complexity.
A man’s advice about something like self-doubt is often that real men don’t have it. This, of course, is asinine, and does not track with reality. A mom can offer a more realistic and nuanced perspective. The same thing goes for eating disorders. Men never acknowledge eating disorders. Real men eat meat, and lots of it. Real men don’t peck at salads like girls. They pack in the protein by the fist-full.
It never crosses their mind that such behavior may conceal a serious eating disorder. A well-informed mom, however, may be more likely to catch it, especially if she has already noted the signs of stress and depression common to the malaise. The well-informed mom not only knows the signs for which to look, but also outlets that provide eating disorder recovery for men. Moms are better suited to pick up on emotional cues than dads.
The Right Kind of Man
There is little wonder teen boys are so confused about girls. Everything they know about girls, they learned from men, or worse yet, other teen boys. Their favorite songs are written and performed by men. Their favorite movies are written by men. Their favorite websites are produced by men. It’s a wonder any of them find mates. Moms need to take a more active role in helping their teen boys figure out what kind of man they will become. After all, the success of that choice will be measured by other women: the potential life mates.
New research shows that Mother’s nurturing results in larger hippocampus in children. Among other things, that has a profound impact on a person’s response to stress. A teen boy that has been well nurtured by his mother may have a greater ability to survive high school stresses than teen boys without that level of nurture. Again, this is something for which mothers are far more suited than fathers. Rather than take a backseat in the formative, high school years of their male children, Moms have an opportunity to direct the course of future history in ways that dads cannot.