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Boys to Men: The Transition from Adolescents to Adults

On Oct. 15, Head of Middle School Jay Greytok '83 presented "Boys to Men: The Transition from Adolescents to Adults" as part of the School's Best for Boys speaker series. In this blog post, he shares takeaways on identity, masculinity, and other topics related to this critical time in a young man's development.

There comes a time in most parents' lives when their son enters the house cloaked in an odor that is unidentifiable and most notably inhuman. After the required shower we are left to ponder what became of this tender boy who is rapidly becoming an odiferous young man, totally comfortable with his new identity. That identity, the transformation from boyhood to manhood, can be both alarming and unsettling, as your wide-eyed inquisitive youngster becomes a hormonal teenager. The process of adolescence is something adolescents do not do very well and as parents, we are often left to ponder the question, what are they thinking?

Chances are as your son goes through puberty, there is very little thinking happening regarding the decisions he makes, the friends he keeps and the activities he undertakes. This is a time where impulse and instinct go hand-in-hand as our boys begin the process of learning to be adults. They want to be independent young men but struggle in their efforts to make their own plans, build healthy relationships, and respect the values and feelings of their friends. We are left to ponder what we can do to help.

Boys in middle school undergo the second greatest physiological and hormonal change in their lives next to birth whether they wish to or not. Typically, they are driven by peer relationships that change overnight as old alliances shift and new loyalties are formed, and some boys are at a loss to explain it. As difficult as this time is for boys, it is equally as difficult for parents.

Finding the center in this process is often challenging, emotional, and difficult. Here are some things you can do as your son explores his role as an adult:

  • Provide structure and responsibility with appropriate positive and negative consequences for their actions. They are seeking more responsibility, leadership and independence, however poorly they might show it.
  • Be a neutral and non-judgmental adult, and when all else fails, ask for help. We will be there to provide the appropriate guidance and assistance for your son.
  • Model expectations and demonstrate consistency regarding structure. Your son will do what you do and say what you say. He knows exactly how to act based on your teachings. If you are tired of hearing, "That's not fair," remind him that is true in life but if you are always consistent in your expectations, you will hear it less and less.

Finally, as difficult as this age is, do your best to enjoy it. Keeping a sense of humor and perspective will help with the realization that this too shall pass. Middle school boys are awesome lumps of clay that need to be shaped and molded appropriately before they harden into their adult selves. Keep working with them versus against them and chances are, you will have a masterpiece worthy of display when they emerge as young adults.

Read more about The Haverford School's Best for Boys Speaker Series.

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