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Single Moms – Tips To Learning To Read Your Boys’ Emotions

Bringing up kids together with a spouse is one thing, raising a son as a single mom is another. Boys aren’t known to be very emotionally expressive and going through a divorce can make them even more reticent. The lack of a male role model or influence can further complicate things, leaving your son confused as to how to act and express his emotions. As the mom, it’s up to you to learn to read and interpret your son’s emotions.

Unfortunately, society teaches boys and men that they can’t have or express certain emotions. Expressing emotions like loneliness, fear or sadness is often considered feminine and is seen as a sign of weakness. So often these feelings come out as anger and aggression- the emotions that are seen as socially acceptable for boys and men to express.

It’s not uncommon for kids who have been through a divorce to experience a wide range of feelings from anger to anxiety and loneliness. Add adolescence to the picture and you have a young man with a cauldron of emotions churning through him with no socially acceptable way to express them. Without proper guidance to find healthy emotional outlets, he might suppress his feelings or start acting out.

Research has shown that emotional suppression has negative outcomes on children and can lead to depression in teenagers, anxiety disorder, and poor sleeping patterns, among other issues. Acting out, on the other hand, can put your son at risk of substance abuse, disciplinary issues and even run-ins with the law. It is, therefore, crucial for you to help your son find healthy ways to express his emotions.

Interpreting Your Son’s Emotions

Boys may not be adept at expressing their feelings but with a little observation, you can learn to read and interpret them.

Your son may convert stereotypically feminine feelings like vulnerability, nervousness or sadness into pride or anger which are more socially acceptable for boys to experience. He might even cover up these feelings with nonchalance. For instance, if he’s about to take a major exam, he might cover his nervousness with indifference. Alternatively, if he’s feeling fearful or anxious in a certain situation, he might lash out in anger to hide his true feelings.

Suppressed emotions may also leak out in the form of physical ailments. For example, if you might notice that your son regularly complains of headaches or stomach aches when he’s anxious or nervous e.g. before an exam, before playing in a major game, etc.

Helping Your Son To Express Himself

Here’s how you can teach your son to be more emotionally expressive:

  • Model emotional expression. If your son sees you showing a variety of emotions, he’ll become comfortable embracing all his feelings. So let him see you happy, anxious, sad and everything in between. Seeing how you manage these emotions will also teach him how to regulate his.
  • Listen to him. Learn to give your son your complete attention whenever he chooses to express his feelings. Don’t rush to give your opinion, advice or solutions, just listen without judgment to what he’s saying. Seeing you pay attention and take him seriously will encourage him to open up more.
  • Find male role models. Since you’re divorced, your son isn’t likely to see his father every day even if you’re on good terms. This means that he needs strong father figures in his life to mentor him. The male role model could be an uncle, a pastor, counselor, or coach.
  • Teach him healthy coping mechanisms for negative emotions. Left unchecked, negative emotions can wreak havoc in your son’s life. Let him understand that while it’s okay to experience anger, frustration, grief, sadness, discouragement and a host of other such emotions, he’s still responsible for his behavior. Help him find healthy ways to purge these feelings either through physical exertion e.g. playing sports, going to the gym, taking a walk or through creative outlets like music, art or journaling.

In order for boys to grow into well-adjusted men with rich emotional lives and deep connections with others, they have to be taught to embrace their emotions as well as learn to express them in healthy ways.

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson, enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative work. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter