I was deeply moved this week. I am frequently moved when I meet with families in the privacy of my therapy office but this week I was particularly touched. I watched closely as a 15 year old teenage boy told his father that he'd like him to be more involved in his life. The father was quite startled and responded by telling his son that he felt that they already have a good relationship. The young man continued, agreeing about the state of the relationship with his father but insisted that he wanted something more from his father. And then he said it. "Teach me how to be a man dad. I need you. I have a girlfriend now." Wow. This young man was imploring his father to impart valuable lessons about how to treat a woman and how a man is supposed to handle himself. I was so impressed. As for the father I believe that he was startled.
This moment in time brings me to a larger issue. We, as a society, talk about our teen daughters much more frequently than our teen sons particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like sexuality and relationships. We worry about our daughters getting too drunk, getting sexually assaulted and generally being the prey of an over-sexed teenage boys. I say that this is unfair to our teen sons. They, too, need to be educated about these issues.
Keep in mind that most teen boys are unlikely to be as open as the young man presented above but nonetheless they need to learn about being a man. And, they don't need to learn everything at once. Gradually and over time find the right times when you are alone with your sons to talk to them about the topics listed below. They may not be pleased in the moment but I promise you that they will benefit.
Your teen boys need you to talk to them about the following:
1. Being respectful of women's (and men's) bodies and asking for permission to touch. We certainly don't want our sons to do anything that is presumptuous and contribute to them being accused of wrongful and unwanted touch.
2. Your sons also need to be spoken to about the problems associated with alcohol and how they may act in a way while drunk that they will not be proud of.
3. Speak to your boys about the importance of maintaining a good reputation and about the importance of good impression management.
4. Let your boys know that it is fine for them to be a virgin as a teen. The boys tell me all the time that their friends tease them about "having their V-card." This translates into being a virgin.
5. You may want to share some of your own awkward and proud teen moments with your boy so that he knows that he is in good company.
This is a start. There are clearly many more lessons that both fathers and mothers can teach our teen sons but I believe that I have given you enough to process at the moment. I'll be back with more.