Give Them Words: Helping Boys Name and Navigate Their Emotions

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I’ll never forget the moment I found out that I was having a boy. This was my first child, and, I must admit, I had been looking longingly at the lovely, frilly dresses for girls in the baby section.

During my ultrasound, though, when I heard the words, “It’s a boy!” I was just filled with gratitude that he was healthy and doing well. Little did I know that as powerful as those three little words were that day, parenting my son would teach me even more about how words change lives.

My son is now thirteen years old, making me an unwilling parent of a teenager. My family likes to joke that my son is my mini-me—he loves to read, is inquisitive by nature, enjoys my “punny” humor, and delves into impromptu philosophical discussions with me. He also likes to stack the bowls in the cupboards in even numbers or else it bothers him. I totally understand.

Growing up, he was always especially aware of routine. If any part of the routine went awry, he was a mess. He would fall apart emotionally. This was especially evident in transitions from one task to another (particularly if the next task was not as enjoyable). As he transitioned from nonverbal to verbal, the most powerful moments for him were when I could verbalize his frustration.

I remember one time he was angry about dirt on his shoe (yes, he was that child). He was crying vehemently, and it took me a while to figure out what his problem was. When I said, “Are you sad because you got dirty?” He yelled, “Yes!” and hugged me so tightly. This was a learning moment for me. He needed me, at his point in his life, to give him words.

The topics have now changed, but I still see myself providing a vital role in helping my son find his words. With hormones raging, he struggles to identify the cause of all the anguish and to find his way out of it. My daughter, on the other hand, has many words. She doesn’t need my help, only my patience. My son though still needs me to help him uncover what is hidden to him. My hope is that as I model how to find the hurt and fear behind the rage that my son will learn how to stop and listen to his heart. And, once he can hear it, I am praying that he will learn the power of speaking truth to his woundedness—without me.

Read the rest in Mutuality Magazine here.

Photo by Marcus Neto on Unsplash

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