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Handle With Care

My husband and I were the foster parents of six different boys before we had our own children. Four of those boys were teenagers and were living in our home while they underwent court mandated drug rehabilitation treatment. While my husband spent much of the time that they lived with us working as a restaurant manager, it was my responsibility to supervise the boys twenty-four-seven when they were not at their treatment center.

It is a job that my husband and I were both very good at. Due to our younger age at the time, we had a better ability to relate to the boys, and because of our personal experiences we could understand a lot about whet they were going through.

Because of the bizarre ability that I had to catch them every single time that they attempted to get in trouble, the boys were convinced that I had super-hero hearing abilities. I learned a lot about teenaged boys during the time that those boys were a part of our life, and I can guarantee that there is a lot more to most boys than meets the eye.

I think that because boys of this age internalize everything and shut out the world so completely we often give up on them and let them fade into the background of our family lives. As long as a boy isn’t getting in trouble with the cops or his school and managing to bring home somewhat decent grades, he is often generally ignored.

When boys are quiet and antisocial, and want to spend all of their time in their rooms, society usually tells parents that this is normal behavior for boys, and that they should be left alone until they decide to come out on their own. This is horrible advice and may even be the attitude that contributes to the suicides of countless young men.

Teenaged boys are under an enormous amount of pressure. They have relentless, and very adult sexual feelings although the majority of them are living in bodies that are still rapidly transforming into mature ones. They are equally as sensitive as girls as well, but the expression of those emotions is societally forbidden so they often choose to share them with no one.

Young men can be highly creative and innovative, yet they are not well skilled at dealing with rejection, so they are very often afraid to expose their talents to the rest of the world.

We teach boys from the time that they are little not to be sissies, when they cry we tell them to stop acting like girls the same way that we compare them to females when we do not like the way that they run, or throw a ball, or speak their mind.

In addition to all of this, many boys grow up feeling a great weight of responsibility and obligation to their families that girls are often excused from. Boys are expected to defend their mothers and sisters and their younger brothers as well. They inherit the duty of upholding the family honor, and it puts much more stress on them than their parents are often aware of.

If you have a teenaged boy in your life, I urge you to work relentlessly at making the conversation happen, never in public, always one on one where embarrassment is less of an issue.

We must have valid relevant conversations with our boys so that we know what is going on in their own little worlds. They are living in this crazy confusing no-man’s-land between childhood and adulthood, and they still really need us to help them make it safely to the other side.

They are also very sweet for the most part, and although they are unwilling to give us hugs like they did when they were little, it doesn’t mean that they don’t miss them as much as we do.


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