Since the 1960s the percentage of children living in two-parent homes has declined significantly relative to the percentage of children raised in single-parent households. Women make up a large majority of these single-parent homes. According to the Pew Research Center, 29% of these families are Hispanic/Latino and 54% African-American.
As more women adapt to the crisis of fatherlessness in Black and Brown communities, it is important to acknowledge the dual role mothers play in the development of our young men. As a product of a single-parent home, I can speak to some of the challenges mother’s face in raising their sons and understand the conditioning this dynamic creates in young men’s lives.
Below are 5 tips for mothers raising a son in single-parent homes:
1. Trust Yourself and Trust Him
The pressure of developing a young man into manhood can be overwhelming, especially in light of all the external pressures they encounter. Trusting your motherly instinct and allowing him to make his own decisions — within reason if he is a minor — can go a long way in establishing a healthy mother-son relationship. Young men need to explore and probe on their own, let them while being a beacon of light should they ever get lost.
2. No “Tough Love”
Don’t be afraid to let him into your world. Don’t make the mistake of being “too tough” to allow him to see your vulnerability. When you allow him to feel your “humanness” you are indirectly developing his ability to be compassionate and empathetic — both qualities that will be critical in his developing future relationships. Boys who are exposed to healthy emotion and vulnerability will not grow up to be afraid of them in their adult lives.
3. Ask Questions and Keep Asking Them!
I get it, teenagers are going to be annoyed by a lot of questions, but trust me: ask them anyway. As much as teens want their privacy, it makes them feel connected and cared for if you take the time to ask.
4. Don’t Badmouth His Father
This one is important. The age-old adage applies “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Why is this important? You want to allow your son to form his own opinion of his father. The last thing you want is for your son to look at you as the reason his father is not present in his life. Or take the blame for his father’s absence himself -- either of which can happen if negativity prevails. That said, honesty is always the best policy, if he asks, tell him the truth.
5. Establish Respect
It is important to create an open, trusting relationship with your son, however, respect should be implicitly and explicitly cultivated and demonstrated. For example, respecting his privacy and allowing him to be his own person while establishing your role as the parent, could go a long way in developing mother-son rapport.
Bonus – Let Him Go!
This is hard, I know. He’ll always be your baby. But you have to do yourself and your son a favor and let go. Trust him as a man and allow him to make his own decisions. You don’t want a “Mama’s Boy” and trust me his future wife will thank you for it.
These are just some tips from my perspective, but I’d love to hear from you. What other advice would you give a single mother raising her son?