Boys Can Cry Too! This was the message delivered and received with relief by the all boys Grade 6 class of Mico Practicing Primary School at the fourth annual “Conversation with Boys“ (CWB) hosted by the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) at the Terra Nova Hotel on May 19, 2023.
The boys, 11-12 years old, who had participated in a previous CWB fora in November 2022, when Dr Michael Abrahams guided them in discussing concerns, obstacles and challenges being experienced, are transitioning to high school in September.
This year Veröl Billett, licensed Associate Clinical Psychologist, joined the CWB team lending his considerable training and experience in psychotherapy, play therapy, mediation and restorative justice to the programme. It was he who assured the boys that it was quite acceptable for them to cry after some of them shared the hurt and fear they feel at being bullied at school or due to conflicts in the home or their communities. Some of his gems included:
“All human beings, male or female, are entitled to feel emotion, cry if you want to, don’t be ashamed”.
“If you are being bullied at school, inform your teacher, your guidance counsellor, your parents. Make it known, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell and tell until something is done about”.
“Try to find the positives within the negatives and walk in your confidence”. You can take ownership of your own story and decide how it ends. As you grow older goals may change but never change your ambitions – if you believe it, it can happen”, the psychologist assured the boys.
Grace Burnett, Chair of the WLI shared that the organization was “extremely pleased to provide this forum for the fourth year for the young boys to express themselves particularly as we learnt that as a result of Covid-19, there were some new issues which were causing them concern.”
Noting that topics for discussion at CWB were defined after consultation with like-minded organizations including the Child and Family Protection Service Agency, Violence Prevention Alliance, and the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, Mrs Burnett said that; “bullying, relating to females, puberty, conflict resolution, goals and ambitions are among the issues most prevalent among boys in this age range”.
“CWB is designed to help achieve behaviour change. We learn so much about what’s happening with our children and how we can be better stewards of them. The boys are very responsive and articulate and give some telling insights into their lives at school, in their communities and in the wider society. Mr Billett was able to impart skills for managing their emotions, increasing self-awareness and coping, adjusting and overcoming obstacles and challenges. He also connected with them through music and it was wonderful to see them showing off their dubbing and dancing skills.”
Nadine Heywood, Chair of the WLI Advocacy Committee said that the feedback from teachers and the boys after each CWB is used to strengthen each subsequent programme including our annual “Darkness to Light” workshops geared at helping teachers, parents and caregivers in preventing, detecting and treating with child sexual abuse.”
The WLI which operates as a special committee of the United way of Jamaica was founded in 2004 by former United States Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb, with the mission of building bridges of cooperation in developing, implementing and sustaining projects in health, education and philanthropy which contribute to the improved well being of all Jamaicans. Now boasting over 60 female senior executives of Jamaica’s private and public sectors the WLI has made considerable contributions in the education sector including the provision of scholarships to tertiary institutions and mentorship of girls, support for women in abusive and challenging circumstances and infrastructure, technology and special needs instruction at the Voluntary Organization for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH).