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BOY - It's not easy being one...

Introduction: The Issue

Raising children in today's world is a delightful mixture of cheers and challenges. As parents, we need to be provided with the tools to help our children make healthy choices - choices that will help them to be safe, secure and self-confident. Young boys have their own set of challenges and require specific tools to help them navigate their way through childhood.

A. Some facts about boys

(Taken From: The Wonder of Boys, by Michael Gurian, therapist, educator, author. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1996)

* Parents talk to, cuddle, and breast-feed their boy infants significantly less than their girl infants.

* Male infants suffer a 25% higher mortality rate than female infants

* Boys are twice as likely to suffer from autism, six times as likely to be diagnosed with hyperkinesis (muscle spasm, hyperactive condition of children), and more likely to suffer birth defects.

* The majority of schizophrenics are boys.

* The majority of retarded children are boys; emotionally disturbed boys outnumber girls 4 to 1.

* Learning disabled boys outnumber girls 2 to 1.

* Boys are twice as likely as girls to be victims of physical abuse.

* By age nine, most boys have learned to repress all primary feelings except anger.

* For many boys, rage becomes the principle conduit for repressed pain, fear, sadness, and grief.

* Boys are four times as likely to commit suicide as girls.

* Boys drop out of high school at a higher rate than girls

B. What Can We Do?

By helping our boys to recognize their strengths and focus on what they can do rather than what their limitations are, we can help them to achieve their goals. Letting them know that they are not alone when they feel pressured, uncertain or insecure, encourages them to turn to friends and family for help. By providing our boys with a strong support system and channeling their boundless energies into positive activities, we are helping them to meet their challenges and define their futures.

C. Concerned Children's Advertisers

Concerned Children's Advertisers (CCA) is a non-profit organization of twenty six Canadian companies who responsibly market and advertise their products and services to children and their families. As child-centered advertisers, broadcasters, and agencies, CCA member companies work together to combine responsible marketing to children, with the social responsibility of caring for children.

CCA member companies have a concern for all issues affecting children, as well as a commitment to understanding and developing solutions to the problems facing children in Canada. With over 35 commercials produced to date, CCA messages speak to the issues of substance abuse prevention, child abuse prevention, healthy life coping skills, self-esteem, bullying and media literacy.

To ensure that each message is soundly based and delivered effectively, partnerships have been formed between CCA member companies, the advertising production community, Health Canada, Canadian Heritage and the Department of Justice. By forging alliances with these groups, CCA has been able to benefit from their expertise, research and knowledge on these all important and complex issues.

Canadian advertisers, broadcasters, agencies and production houses have, and continue to, generously donate their time, talent and production costs to create this compelling series of more than 35 commercials which are 30 seconds, 60 seconds and 2 minutes in length.

Three of Concerned Children's Advertisers commercials are aimed particularly at boy's self esteem. 'What's Your Thing?', helps boys recognize that 'Nobody's good at everything, but everybody's good at something'. The important thing is to recognize that boys, like girls, do have feelings and to channel their energies to positive directions, and support them as individuals while they navigate their way through life's challenges.

Boys and girls are constantly trying to balance the impact and need for group support and this sometimes results in decisions and emotions that cause them to struggle with their choices. 'Bundle Up' and 'Knock on Wood' act as catalysts for discussion, and let boys know that we are aware of their need to be understood, supported and guided as they grow to become responsible, caring citizens.

The tag line, 'Boy...It's not easy being one' opens the door for meaningful ways to help boys to recognize their strengths and address their challenges in positive ways. Below, are some tools to help parents celebrate the strengths and attributes of their boys:

D. Tips to Help Promote Positive Self Esteem With Boys

Research tells us that boys have difficulty identifying their feelings and emotions, as well as expressing them. Try engaging boys in family discussions that provide them with a safe and caring environment to express their feelings.

Boys often suppress emotions because they are easily embarrassed. Let them know that it is okay to talk about their experiences without being laughed at or judged.

Boys need to learn strategies for dealing effectively with anger. Help them to learn how to express frustration and anger in non-violent, appropriate ways.

Peer relationships are very important to boys. Get to know their friends and encourage positive relationships.

Boys often equate popularity and success with being good at sports. Help your boys identify what they are good at. Encourage them to focus on their strengths, after all- 'Everybody is good at something. What's your thing?'

Boys find dealing with peer pressure to be a major challenge in their lives. Review the 'Starting Points for Family Discussions to Avoid Negative Peer Pressure' with your boys. Encourage them to fill their 'toolkit' with lots of strategies for saying no.

Sometimes, boys feel uncomfortable engaging in activities that are 'traditionally' for girls. Encourage your boys to participate in non-traditional roles that they enjoy. (Cooking, dancing, singing etc.)

Boys have lots of energy! The key is to help them learn to channel that energy towards positive means. A little guidance and support goes a long way to helping boys make appropriate, healthy choices.

In closing, let us once again turn to the illuminating words of author Michael Gurian who states:

" ...Boys, like girls are inherently blessed, and if nurtured properly, provide the world with indomitable spirits, humble hopes, courageous love, and unflagging energy. The fact is, masculinity, if appropriately parented, mentored and educated, is one of life's most nurturing and creative forces."

For more information about Concerned Children's Advertisers and our Parent or Educator Program, 'TV&ME', contact CCA at (416) 484-0871, or check out our web site at: