What is Eating Our Boys?
By Marlo Scott, Health Educator, M.S, Professor at Broward College / June 1, 2018
While it is obvious that mass shootings can only be called "shootings" because they involve guns - and guns are the common factor - there is an elephant in the room of another constant aspect. The only thing these mass shootings have in common is that males, many of who are young men, mainly carry them out. It is true they all have different degrees of criminal history and/or mental health backgrounds, according to Daniel Victor, journalist for the New York Times. Victor adds that their reasons may range from revenge, personal notoriety, or a vendetta over a grievance. My question is since we recognize the obvious, how do we deal with this and move forward in the wake of the most recent tragedy in Parkland?
"It's not that girls don't get angry too, but "they tend to be more amenable to processing emotions and talking them through," said Dr. Steven Stosny, PhD in Psychology Today. "This does give parents an opportunity, if astute enough, to deal with them."
Furthermore, adds Ani Smith, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, that the ways that boys act out are unique. "Boys don't just grow up 'angry,' but they can become isolated and alienated over time as relationships with caregivers experience strain, challenges with peers increase, and adolescent insecurities peak."
Dr. Stosny said it's the testosterone factor. It should be considered in this day and age of violent video games, over-the-top violence in movies and social media, in addition to song lyrics, all of which have influences. "The testosterone surges that boys experience, blunts their fear, while it disinhibits, making them more susceptible to dangerous behaviors that both invoke and result from anger," Stosny adds.
All of this is very concerning to me, as a mom of two boys. My boys have always been everything to me. Although they have been seemingly sweet for most of their young lives, they are teenagers now, and things are changing. Sure, all teens have attitude and try risky behaviors. Some may even be depressed or angry at times. So how do we as parents decipher when it is a problem or a true mental health emergency? My son, Jake Scott, said, "men handle their problems with violence because that is what they see." He adds that many kids build up stress from "overloaded pressure and schedules." Have we as parents, overloaded our kids thinking keeping them busy at every moment would be a good thing? It is a question to ponder. If Dr. Stosny believes that girls talk their problems out to solve them, then how can we do a better job in reaching boys and encouraging them to do the same? Why aren't boys given outlets to talk their problems out? If they think it is not "acceptable" to discuss problems with other males, how do we make it acceptable? Will it be acceptable if we add more social programs for boys in schools, peer counseling, or maybe an app on the phone?
Smith stated that boys need safe outlets for managing "intense emotions." Ideas she offers are talking to a trusted adult, playing sports, scout clubs, volunteering, and playing music. "It is important to prioritize and cultivate relationships with trusted adults (dad, uncle, mom, grandpa, teachers, coaches), as it keeps them connected to others and avoids isolation and alienation, both indicators of psychological imbalance," Smith said.
Other ideas to explore as part of the problem in addition to what has already been mentioned, is sleep, nutrition, and exercise. It is widely known that exercise is used as a therapy for many issues. Food, and sugars in particular, can definitely play a part in causing mood swings. Furthermore, sleep studies suggest that when we operate on less than 6.5 hours of sleep, our reaction time is slowed and we may be operating as if intoxicated.
Finally, it's clear there are a myriad of culprits to why our boys are having trouble coping in today's world, but if we come together, we can share more ways to get involved. What will you do? Let's make this a call to action.
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