Tyler Jacobson’s son is sensitive. He has decided that dad is going to be as well.
The hidden tears. His lip curl. The constant pacing through the house. I don’t know what it is, but something has made my son upset. He’s not vocalizing it, not yet. Not until he’s ready. But something has gone wrong.
My 16-year-old son is highly sensitive.
To anyone without a highly sensitive child, those words call to the imagination a young man who weeps at romantic movies, or throws a fit when pricked by a thorn or other such minor injury. Of course, this isn’t the imagination, and my son’s sensitivity is a result of a nervous system that makes him aware of every detail of his surroundings.
What is a Man?
It’s been difficult as a man raised by the standards I was to then raise a young man so quick to respond to what I would consider minor. Growing up, I was taught that a man should be steadfast, full of integrity and strength. This meant having the emotional depth of a rock. Society has placed value on men that keep their cool through any situation, and a man who shows any sign of emotion deserves every bit of ridicule they get.
It took a week before my son came to me with his problem: the plant he was given as gift from his uncle had died. My son has always taken gifts seriously, and sees the plant’s death as a personal failure. The best I can do is let him know I’m there for him, to listen to how he felt, and let him know it was okay to be upset.
Transitioning From Child to Teen
The signs were there even when he was a toddler. He was always quiet and thoughtful. For his first few years, he rarely spoke, but the light was clearly shining in his eyes. As he grew up, things became more intense. Teens are in the throes of growth and as their brains develop, they tend to feel things greater than adults do. There are differing schools of thought on this process.
Whatever the cause, at the root of everything, he cares. He cares about everyone, and everything. His empathy and consideration are some of his greatest traits, and ones I’ve come to love most about him. Over the years, I learned that what it was to be sensitive, and how I needed to get in touch with that part of myself in order to help guide him through life. Not only did I have to learn to ignore how I was raised, but I needed to rethink my own reactions to sensitivity in others.
Before if I saw someone displaying the same moodiness my son has been, I might have tried to get them to calm down or get over whatever the problem was. But in coming to know my son, I’ve come to trust in his heart. Even though I may not react the same way about something, I know that if my son is upset about it, his reasons are just as legitimate as anyone’s. It’s been hard, but there are always parenting resources on teens to help parents who may be lost. You just have to want it.
Image: Flickr/Rui baros
Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for parent and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has offered humor and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, mental disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teen boys. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin