How to Raise a Boy without his Dad

As any parent knows, raising a child under any circumstances can be challenging, rewarding and exhausting. It also requires incredible stores of patience, endurance and love-the last of which most parents have no trouble supplying in abundance. The single parent, however, has even more responsibilities and parenting duties which can make the job of being a parent seem literally overwhelming at times. If you are a mom who has a little boy, and-for whatever reason-his dad is not in the picture, you may have times when you are literally riddled with worry about how you will successfully raise your son without a male role model so that he grows up to be a happy, healthy, kind and good man.

Don't Panic

First of all, don't let friends, family members or well-meaning strangers tell you that you "can't" raise a boy on your own. Many single women have successfully raised their sons with little help from anyone. Bill Clinton was raised by a single mom, as were Bill Cosby, Tom Cruise, Ed Bradley, Barack Obama, Michael Phelps and Alexander Haig-just to mention a few. Hundreds of thousands of single mothers have produced fine, upstanding young men without benefit of virtually any male whatsoever. It can be done, it simply takes some extra time and understanding.

Check out Options for Surrogates or Mentors

While you can definitely raise your son to a successful manhood on your own, it can be helpful to find a stable, responsible surrogate who is willing to participate in your son's life. This can be a family member, a teacher, a man in your church, community leader, coach, or trusted friend. The idea is to allow your son to develop feelings of trust and respect for a man, but you want to make sure that whoever you choose has the qualities you would like to see emulated by your son. If you happen to live in a larger city, you could try the local Big Brothers of America Club and ask about their mentoring program. Before getting your son involved, however, talk to the proposed mentor yourself and make sure they are willing and able to establish a lasting relationship with your son. Once you've found a great surrogate or mentor, try your best not to interfere with the relationship, rather allow your son to grow into his own understanding of what it means to be a man.

Keep the Communication Lines Wide Open

The most important thing you can do with any child is to make sure the two of you talk often and openly about their fears, frustrations and anxieties. If your son has questions about his dad, answer them honestly, and regardless of the circumstances do your best to speak positively about the absent parent. While you may-with good reason-be angry and resentful toward your son's father, verbally attacking him in front of your child is the same as a silent attack on your son. Not only will your son feel defensive on behalf of his absent father, but may also feel that he has the same qualities you so obviously dislike. While you don't need to invent stories or make the absent dad into a hero, you do need to avoid speaking negatively of him, and, if there is a chance of a relationship between the two, do your best to encourage it.

What Does Your Son Need?

Your son needs what every child needs, no matter the number or makeup of the adults in his home. While he does not need a perfect life, and can, in fact, develop inner strength from hard times, he needs order and consistency in his life as well as a relationship with an adult who always sees the child as special and wonderful. (That's you, mom!) Your son needs to be able to interact with adults who challenge him and provide a moral compass for his future. You must ensure he has strong friendships and community ties, and grows up in an atmosphere of justice and achievement opportunities. Finally, if your son has any special social, educational or health needs, they must be fully and completely attended to. Any young boy who has all these things, learns to trust in himself, and grows up to be a young man with a healthy self-esteem who is able to cope with life's many ups and downs.

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