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The ‘I’m a teenage boy’ trend provides a stark look at how young men need more emotional support

Teenage boy trend Instagram
wearemanenough/Instagram

I have two children—a girl and a boy—and whenever the topic of navigating the teenage years comes up, it’s almost always in reference to my daughter. I have no doubt that raising a teenage girl will be difficult, but so will be raising a teenage boy. why is it that society feels like teenage girls are more complicated than teenage boys? Because society tells girls they can express their emotions and tells boys they have to suppress them.

Brendan Kwiatkowski (@re.masculine) has been doing PhD research on this very subject and recently shared his take on the viral “I’m a…” trend with real quotes from teenage boys he’s interviewed during his research.

The video provides a stark look at how young men need more emotional support. The quotes range from boys admitting “emotions confuse me even more than girls confuse me” to “when I started to suppress my emotions I got bullied less in school.”

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In other quotes, subjects said being a teenage boy is “lonely” while others felt like they needed to be the shoulder to cry on rather than crying on someone else’s shoulder. “My parents’ divorce really effed me up to be honest, but I just made sure my sister and my mom were okay.”

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching quote came at the end, when Kwiatkowski said, “I want someone to hug me. Not as a greeting, but like to really hug me.”

“Being a teenage boy IS complicated,” Kwiatkowski wrote in the reel’s caption. “80% of the boys @re.masculine interviewed want more emotional support. Nearly all of them are watching their dads for emotional guidance. What are we teaching them?”

This might be a lot to unpack for some fathers who have trouble showing their own emotions as adults—after all, this is all about cycle-breaking and most dads were raised to repress their emotions, too.

Emotional avoidance can be detrimental to your health and lead to depression and anxiety. According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, men are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

Of course, boys’ emotional awareness is not solely on the dad’s shoulders. Modern boy moms are making it a point to raise sensitive males. Sadly, toxic masculinity is still prevalent, but if we teach our boys to be kind and compassionate the next generation may not feel societal pressure to repress their emotions.