What is health and wellbeing for boys?
Your son’s health and wellbeing is greatly impacted by his environment and his ability to cope with its pressures. Fortunately, this page provides a comprehensive guide on health and wellbeing for boys. There are also many online resources available to help support and balance your son’s lifestyle.
Wellbeing can be defined as the combination of feeling good and functioning well, experiencing happiness in one’s life – a fundamental life goal. Health and wellbeing not only refers to someone’s physical health but also their social and emotional needs, mental health and spiritual development. All areas need equal attention to promote good overall health and wellness. The body and the mind need to be balanced and healthy for an individual to realise their full potential and build resilience to deal with the challenges and stresses of everyday life.
Our relationships with people are very important when it comes to wellbeing. We rely on support, trust, friendship and comfort from others to feel a sense of connection, experience happiness and help us deal with life’s challenges. Your son needs quality sleep and a well-balanced routine of physical activity and nutrition for optimum health, so that he is physically prepared to function at his best. Equally, downtime and breaks are just as vital to his health and mental wellbeing so that he has the opportunity to relax and recharge.
Each area of health and wellbeing connects and supports the other to help your son feel content, secure and positive about himself, his decisions and his life. Life can be demanding and doesn’t always go to plan, but we can equip our sons with the skills to deal with any situation while maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing and health.
How to support your son’s mental health
Beyond Blue describes mental health as “being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships – and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.” Mental health refers to your mental state – it describes the way you are feeling and your capacity to cope with life on a daily basis. It is often mistaken as an illness, but more accurately, it refers to your mental wellness.
Emotions and moods change regularly – we are human after all – but good mental health means you have the capacity to experience positive emotions more than negative, engage in the world around you and have the strength to deal with tough times. As a parent, you can begin conversations around mental health and look for signs in your son’s behaviour.
Good mental health can be encouraged by:
- Expressing and dealing with a range of emotions
- Building and maintaining relationships with others
- Possessing confidence and self-esteem
- Adapting to change
- Feeling engaged in the world around you
- Living and working productively.
You can support your son’s mental health in many ways – practising mindfulness meditation is just one method. Mindfulness means being fully present and aware of your surroundings without being overwhelmed by what’s going on — quite the skill in a noisy, fast-paced world. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are plentiful and can be supported at home. There are also strategies boys can implement to help reduce and manage stress in their daily lives. Lastly, boosting your son’s self-esteem will give him confidence, support his sense of belonging and allow him to feel more competent in his abilities.
Maintaining physical wellbeing
Staying healthy and maintaining physical wellbeing is an important part of being mentally, physically and spiritually fit. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle for boys are infinite.
Boys are known for their insatiable appetities, but all that brain power and running around requires plenty of fuel and nutrition. As a parent, it is important to educate your son on what foods will nourish and benefit his body so he can keep up his strength, ward off illnesses, maintain a healthy weight and operate at his best. Get him involved in the kitchen and reinforce healthy eating habits to help him feel good inside and out.
Surprisingly, girls aren’t the only ones who worry about their physical appearance. Boys are increasingly thinking about their body image so it is essential to your son’s wellbeing that he sees himself in a positive way. Encourage a positive relationship with food and exercise, with each in moderation. The benefits of a healthy diet and physical activity should be viewed holistically instead of focusing on the way they will impact his appearance.
Not only will physical activity strengthen your son’s muscles and bones, it will also help combat stress, improve sleep, increase concentration and offer opportunities to socialise with peers — all beneficial contributions to his overall wellbeing.
Why social and emotional wellbeing is important
Social and emotional wellbeing impacts our overall wellbeing and relies on us having the necessary skills to build and maintain relationships with others and ourselves. Children should learn to recognise their own emotions, have some control over them, show empathy to others and make good behavioural decisions. Children are active participants in their own lives. It is important that they develop and build their social skills and emotional competence in their school and home environment to enable them to cope with everyday life.
Social and emotional skills can be defined as:
- recognising and regulating emotions
- developing a strong sense of self
- showing care and concern for others
- making responsible decisions
- establishing positive and effective relationships
- negotiating challenging situations effectively
- accessing learning that is interesting and intrinsically rewarding.
The ability to build friendships and manage relationships is strong evidence of a child’s developed social skills. Social skills – such as the ability to communicate, engage, show empathy and build trust with others – are essential for boys to flourish at school, at sport practice or in the workplace. Research has found that people with positive social relationships are known to live longer and healthier lives. Boys, like many of us, desire connection and belonging, but can struggle to maintain loving and emotional connections with other boys due to cultural norms and definitions of masculinity. Teach your son how to build and nurture positive relationships at home.
The emotional intelligence and skills an individual posseses greatly affects their choices and behaviour in life. Your son needs to be aware of his emotions and be able to manage them. Regulating emotions such as anger and frustration are important for his emotional wellbeing and influences how he will respond to others. As a parent, you can help your son to manage his emotions to encourage responsible decision-making.
Safety and risk-taking in boys
Boys by nature are more prone to taking risks than girls, especially during adolescense. They are led more by impulse and quick decision-making as the planning and reasoning part of the brain is still developing – the pre-frontal cortex develops more slowly than the amygdala, which controls emotional and primal urges. As boys explore their limits and boundaries, compounding factors such as peer pressure, rebellion, stress, low self-esteem or boredom can amplifiy their propensity to engage in risky activities.
Risky behaviour can include drugs, dangerous driving, un-safe sex, alcohol or illegal activities — as a parent this is daunting territory. Keeping your son safe is a lifelong goal. However, there are ways you can help manage your son’s risky behaviour and encourage him to say no. Discuss the consequences of certain behaviours and design an exit plan that your son can follow should he find himself in a sticky or unsafe situation.
Experimentation and risk-taking is normal and a right of passage for children growing up. Healthy risk-taking can be rewarding and beneficial if channelled into safe and constructive activities. Pick your battles, keep the channels of communication open and focus your attention on your son’s major exposures to risk.