I teach human development and sexuality education as a rite of passage as well as a substance abuse prevention program. The developmental, interpersonal and intra-psychic tasks required of pre-adolescent and teenage boys, go largely unsupported by their tribe. As puberty looms, many of their comforting touchstones are falling away. Social rules among friends begin to go through a radical transformation, while the goals and achievements that previously fed their self-esteem lose their appeal. At the same time, any emotional expression of grief or sorrow is met with shame from their once equally sensitive peers. Often, while relationship with parents seem dominated by conflict, defiance, tense negotiation, and mutual disappointment. This, in large part, is why our teenage boys and their parents often find themselves feeling lost, angry, confused, frustrated, and misunderstood.
In order for parents and educators to guide and support our pre-adolescents and teens, we must understand what their unique developmental stage demands of them. They stand at the threshold of becoming young men. This is typically daunting to all concerned. A new pursuit of personal honour and value begin to govern the landscape. New questions dominate their internal dialogue: What’s good about me? Who are my best friends? What do people think of me? Do I have anything to offer the world and what does the world have to teach me of value? All of this occurring upon a canvas colored by the media portraying sex and romance as the core of teen and adult life.
If parents understand the function of this transition, then we can engage our boy’s genius and help to provide them with opportunities to build and discover themselves and their gifts. This is a time where boys need to be challenged, have conquests, and become heroes. The protective instincts of mothering will be largely rejected, while fathering becomes the essential torch to light the way on this leg of the journey.
Pre adolescents (and even adolescents) want to talk to their parents about what is going on within and around them. When parents and educators openly talk about sex and sexuality with their children, these are the children who grow up in front of us and not away from us.