lgoogle-site-verification: google111a1d03c70be975.html

Teenage Boys and Counseling

Mistakes Parents Make with Boys

As a father of a 15 year old son, I’m in the center of the anarchy and can relate both personally and professionally to parenting a teenager. There are so many ways that parenting mirrors generations past and yet a few strikingly unique challenges for existing parents. Most notably the digital age, virtual world, fast paced, upgrade, 140 character and “I’m out” mindset of the modern teen.
Working with adolescents is a unique opportunity to witness the wild rollercoaster of emotions that can often change within the same sentence. Boys have many challenges and much of our society is designed to exacerbate these challenges.

Counseling is by its very essence an acknowledgment of some guidance needed. Teenagers today are often fiercely honest. They are willing to "tell all" like no other generation before. This is often really helpful for therapists who work to move clients toward authenticity. But, looking at one's own issues is not as as easy for teens as it is for them to see their parents, friends and teachers shortcomings.  A skilled counselor is able to move at the pace of the young person and help them feel like they are on the same team. 

1.Get A’s and You’ll be Fine
We need to take a close look at how we define success. In 18 years of practicing I have come to see too many high achieving students succeed academically at the expense of their mental  and physical health. It’s truly painful to bear witness to success and heartache in the same moment. Kids who achieve high grades are better positioned for success. But as much as grades matter, they lose some relevance in the absence of health, optimism, energy, social skills, sleep, self-worth and self-care.

2.It’s All About the Money
Kids see the ridiculous amount of money athletes, actors and other entertainers make and then are surrounded by a culture of consumerism. How do we possibly help them have a healthy view of finances? Boys today are desperately struggling to find their way and they often attach money with success when even wealthy people battle depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. There is nothing wrong with adolescents wanting to acquire money and the things that go with it. But it is when teenagers emphasize its importance about their passions and purposes that make it disheartening.

3.Girls, Girls Girls
Dads often view it as a bonding thing to share their high-school stories with their son. And though this might have some nostalgic benefit, it often runs the risk of creating a template for how our son’s come to view their masculinity. Should they have a girlfriend? Should they have sex? Is abstinence in the cards for my boy? Fathers’ stories often lead their teenage boys to think their masculinity is tied to their sexuality. This often causes a level of anxiety that goes unspoken.

" Teenagers are not impressed with acronyms they want to know that we get it."

Photo By Walter Leonard

How to Help Boys Talk

Helping boys talk requires a bit of patience, play and persistence...

It's no secret that boys are generally not big fans of talking, particularly about their feelings or anything that forces them to reflect. This isn't to suggest that boys are superficial. But rather they tend to be guarded and struggle to access their feeling. However, a good therapist will dance at the pace of his/her clients and determine whether patience, play or persistence is called for.

Patience is needed because we are not admired because we have acronyms after our names. They are not impressed! They are looking to see if we get it. Not whether we are good listeners. They expect that. But if we truly get their world. A therapist who rushes to create change risks losing the relationship before it starts.

Play may sound superficial but it provides a medium for boys to more comfortably enter into a new  relationship with a therapist. This may be as simple as a card game or walking to the nearby basketball court or putting golf balls in the hallway. I've found that whatever interests a kid, just do it. It leads to trust.

Persistence is our willingness to not give up on boys when they don't seem to offer up much or appear to only care about video games, snapchat and youtube. We must look beyond the distractions and help kids create their best selves.