I am having challenges with my teenage son. He is trying to spread his wings and find his place among his peers. My son is black and white and mentioned to me he sometimes feels “bipolar” meaning he’s pleased one minute but gets very depressed the next. He’s very hard on himself. My question for Michael would be for me as a parent, how do I best encourage and reach him? What do I need to look out for with him? I worry as a parent that I am raising my boys to be confident in themselves and happy people.
Being a teenager can be a very challenging time for young males. They are experiencing a surge of hormones, they feel uncomfortable in their new bodies, and young men look to the outside to tell them who they are.
Boys are becoming men, and therefore they begin to question authority, test boundaries and stretch into their manhood. They are ready for more; however, our society has said: “you are not an adult until you are eighteen.”
Therefore, not an adult, most teenagers are not consulted on their opinions and have no real “power” within cultural norms or sometimes, within their family structure. They are becoming men-children, stuck somewhere between adulthood with its desires, responsibilities and appetites and the freedom of childhood. After all, you can father a child, and fight for your country, however, society, as well as the legal system, views you as not capable until you are twenty-one. Most everyone else considers thirty-something as the coming of age.
The teenage years are a time when reliable male role models are essential. As they look to the outside to identify with someone they respect and want to model, teenagers build their confidence as they come into their stride. Frequently, in this period of maturation, a young male will look up to a father figure, a coach, a teacher, or close male relationship. Sometimes, they must default to the media to look for a definition of a powerful man they seek to become.
If this avenue is not tangible for them, they become frustrated, jaded, sarcastic and less than optimistic. Boys begin to subscribe to the fearful adage, “oh well, life is a bitch, and then you die. Why try?”
Furthermore, as they look to the outside, many young males compare themselves to others which invariably establishes the need for competition. In competition, there are winners and losers. If a young male’s identity is rooted in competition whether sports, academics or physical attributes, life is a constant battle of self-prescribed judgment. Every moment you are either winning or losing. One realizes that you cannot be “on top” or “better than” and this increases the sense of never getting ahead, which in turn can lead to sadness or despair.
We say the best way to approach this challenge is to begin establishing a spiritual aspect or perspective to the young man’s daily life. The need for looking on the inside and understanding the journey of life will help the individual’s establishment of self-esteem and unique divine purpose. Learning about service, listening to other’s and instilling hope in others will bring about a change in anyone’s belief about themselves.
Frequently, the children will often mirror a parent’s core beliefs and own challenges in life. We recommend the best way to alter a child’s view of the world is for a parent to address their self-esteem challenges as well.