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Boys and Their Best Buds

We are very fortunate that both our sons are quite social and have a great circle of friends. They each have a “best friend” who coincidentally happen to be brothers! When I watch this flurry-some foursome playing together, there is so much laughter and joy that it is truly contagious. There is a genuine shared affection and they don’t hold back when showing how much they care for each other. It’s common for them to be sitting close together, to hug, and last month I even witnessed my five-year-old kiss his best friend on the arm.

And while I encourage and relish being witness to such sincere closeness, my mind can’t help but fast-forward to a time where this connection will fizzle out as all-male friendships do in adolescence. There is this unspoken rule in boys growing up that they are to be stoic, autonomous, emotionally distant, and refrain from showing any type of affection to their male friends. 

Boys and their friendships

Sayings like “no homo” or “that’s so gay” litter the lexicon of young men and create this physical – and emotional – the distance between them. Our misconstrued version of masculinity doesn’t include closeness or sensitivity between men and this is having a serious impact on our collective mental health. You don’t have to dig deep to find studies that show a dramatic increase in depression, isolation and loneliness among men. You may also find that platonic displays of affection between men is quite normal in several other cultures.

It’s time we talk to our sons and help them to define friendships in a healthier way. We need to remove the stigma that closeness is a feminine, gay, or childish trait. We should be encouraging our sons to spend time with their friends one at a time to truly get to know them – and to discourage the group mentality of harmful peer pressures. It’s imperative that our kids have close friends, as we all need people in our lives who we can trust, can confide in, and can be ourselves with. These friends are essential to our well-being and they help us navigate this complex world we’re all in.

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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