Photo by Mindaugas Danys
I remember when we found out that our first child was a boy. I felt a little - terrified. I grew up with two older sisters and almost all female cousins. I didn't know anything about little boys and was utterly out of my element.
Sometimes that's the best place to be.
There's a crisis within many males in our society today. This generation lacks secure, confident men - men who know who they are and don't need to flaunt power in order to feel powerful.
I consider it an awesome privilege and responsibility to raise my sons to be this type of world-changing, thoughtful leader.
I've never consciously brainstormed strategies to help my boys express emotion. But my husband and I are very aware of our own areas of emotional struggle. We hope that through openly dealing with our issues, we can teach our sons how to deal with theirs.
Here are a few ideas to help your sons manage their feelings:
* Model it - share how you feel.
Show your own emotions openly - and not just the positive stuff.
Sometimes I'll tell my kids, "I'm feeling angry and frustrated right now, so I'm going to take deep breaths, close my eyes, and say a prayer. I will talk to you in a minute."
Photo by Oakley Originals
A son especially needs to see his father's emotions.
Recently, on Liberia Day, Steve cried as he told Elijah how glad we are to have him as our son. Elijah ran around afterward saying, "Daddy's crying because he's so happy!" Our emotions as parents deeply influence our little people.
* Role play and discuss emotional situations.
Use this strategy after a tense situation has cooled off. Sit with your son and talk about what happened and what you both could have done or said to express yourselves more appropriately. Take a minute to practice if the timing feels right.
* Use art or journaling as a way to provide an outlet for your son.
Children can sometimes draw things they find hard to say verbally. I've often been amazed by the revelations I've received through our children's art about what's going on inside them.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt
Simple Kids recently featured a helpful post about using journals to give children an outlet for their feelings.
* Empathize with your little guys in tough times.
Convey to your children that no emotion is negative - it's just what you do with feelings that can be good or bad.
At times, during or after an outburst, try saying to your son, "I can tell that you are sad and angry. That must be hard. Can you tell me how you're feeling?"
Along these lines, I also believe it's important for me to apologize if I've spoken angrily to one of my children. In this way I let them know that I'm learning to express myself appropriately as well - I need to hold myself to the same guidelines I give them.
These strategies will help any child, boy or girl. But mothers need to put extra thought in giving our boys the skills to deal with their inner worlds. A successful society needs strong men - I believe the generation of boys we're currently raising are going to change the world in amazing ways.
As mothers, we're honored to be the ones to move them toward that goal.
Which of these points seems most valuable to you? How do you help your sons express emotions?