Tunde is the 4th child of his family and the only male child. His mother doted on him and his father took him everywhere. His older sisters were constantly schooled about housekeeping and assisting in the kitchen, but Tunde was given a free pass to play video games. Afterall, he is a boy. Thus, he learnt from an early age that housekeeping was for girls and women and not for boys or men. This indulgence suited him simply fine. When he was frustrated or upset and he burst into tears, he will be reprimanded by his mother to ‘be a man’ and that boys do not show emotions or cry like girls. So, he learnt to bottle up his feelings and try to be ‘macho’.
By the time he grew into adulthood, started having relationships and eventually got married, he was never comfortable with showing his emotions or dealing with them. He was also very insensitive about the emotions of others. And he found it hard to understand why some of his former girlfriends simply didn’tknow their place and wanted him to be helping around the house. Or to be ‘soft’. Maybe they were just brought up to be lazy, unlike his mother and his sisters who served him and his father dutifully.
Facts of the Matter
Boys and the male gender are disadvantaged even before birth and they are further hampered by societal norms which limits their growth emotionally and socially. Globally, the facts are noticeably clear: The majority of miscarriages affect males more than females. Survival rates among premature babies is better for female preterms compared to male preterms.
The number of infants and children who die before their first (infant mortality rate) and fifth birthdays (under 5 mortality rate) is much higher for boys than for girls globally. So 52 boys per 1000 live births die before their 1st birthday (IMR) compared to 44 girls per 1000 live births globally (excluding China and India). Similarly, under 5 mortality rate is 77 per 1000 live births for boys compared to 69 for girls per 1000 live births.
The picture remains consistently the same as they grow older. More male adolescents are likely to die from violent fights, gangs, drunk driving, drug overdose and from suicide than girls. About 80% of juvenile offenders are likely to be males; and the number of male prison inmates is predominantly more than females worldwide. Furthermore, in wars and conflicts the males are more likely to be conscripted into the military and die from wars.
How about in old age? Across the world, females live longer than males (life expectancy). So, it should be obvious that indeed, the male gender is the weaker gender.
There is a growing realization that males, especially boys are more vulnerable, at greater risk, and more disadvantaged in certain aspects than girls and females generally. This flies against the conventional wisdom that it is a man’s world and that males enjoy all the privileges. Thus, there is increasing need to pay some special attention to the needs of boys and males generally. It is in this light, that May 16 has been set aside as the International Boys Day.
Common Stressors for Young Boys
They often struggle to fit into the societal macho stereotypes; experience difficulties with managing their emotions and those of others; often struggle with poor social and communication skills; experience a lot of peer pressure to experiment with drugs and be ‘cool’ or a ‘hard man’. Thus, many boys struggle with emotional problems including drug abuse.
How can we improve the emotional wellbeing of Boys?
1. Every human being has a brain and experience emotions…regardless of gender
2. Boys need to be comfortable experiencing and dealing with their emotions as well as those of others.
3. They should be equipped to look after themselves, cook and carry out housekeeping, so they are not handicapped in adult life
4. Allow them to freely express themselves without stereotypes. Do not discourage them from hobbies and skills they may enjoy such as cooking or fashion design for instance.
5. Encourage boys to be comfortable in their own skin. And not to live their life trying to impress others.
6. In the school of life, there will always be failures at various stages. Teach and empower boys to handle failures as a normal feature of life.
7. Learn good social and communication skills and the value of investing in good interpersonal relationships
8. Avoid drug abuse and experimenting with it. You can be cool without taking drugs
9. Cultural upbringing that focuses on properly raising girls while neglecting boys or leaving them to their whims is ultimately detrimental to the boys.
10. Seek help if needed: Do not hesitate to seek for help if you are not coping well emotionally, or for your family
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 20th May 2021