International Men’s Day is in the month of November and as a single parent of three young sons, this day holds great significance for me. Can you give me some tips to ensure that my children become strong and confident men in the future?
Dear Independent Indra,
Research shows that there are over 13.6 million single parents in the world and that single mothers outnumber the single fathers by 16 per cent. With these statistics, us women are tasked with the responsibility to ensure that we take our role seriously in the development of strong, responsible individuals.
Those of us with boys have a greater responsibility to take everything to another level and not be the demise of our male counterparts.
My journey in single motherhood started after the death of my spouse. He was diagnosed with cancer five years prior to his passing caused life to change for us in a real way. I had to learn coping skills that I didn’t even realise existed. My world seemed so perfect until then because I had an equal partner to assist me with all of the parenting and life challenges that I had to endure up to that point.
It was in his passing that I really had to analyse and develop the much needed aspects of myself that would make me a mother capable enough to raise and groom responsible young men. I had to take care of my emotional health, make drastic adjustments and re-learn life. Most of all, I had to ensure that in all my actions, I made a safe home for me and my boys.
We know that boys can be very attached to their mother when they are very young, but as they begin to enter puberty things and their focus change. Our role in their life seems to diminish and we battle for attention against peers, other family members and even the media. At least this has been my experience.
Well, of course, the voice began to deepen and I could not quite answer questions that I would otherwise not think about. I remember one day after training, looking at my eldest son after he fell asleep on my bed. I was in both shock and awe. It was at that moment that I realised that my little boy was now a young man and I realised how much I was out of my depth. “How was I going to do any of this on my own?”
Admittedly, the challenges were many and I had to get advice on setting rules and times for football; times for music; times for swimming and most importantly times for school work. Things that I had a partner to assist with were now solely my responsibility.
I was especially challenged by my oldest about bedtime and the types of shows that he wanted to look at as well as other issues that I believe, if left unchecked, could have caused major problems in the future.
These were the times that I not only sought wise council but I also called in the troops. Thankfully, I am blessed to have four brothers who happily assumed their responsibility and assisted when the male influence proved crucial.
I must admit that this journey has shaped and developed me into the strong, determined and courageous woman that I am today.
Because I had to raise my two boys on my own, I have gained a greater understanding for young boys and men and appreciate more the role that they play in our lives as pillars and leaders and partners in our society.
In celebrating the men in my life and in acknowledging how they have contributed to my success, here are some tips that helped me cope with the many challenges that this journey has brought my way.
• Let your young men know that is ok to express emotion
• Maintain respectful open dialogue
• Help them be in touch with their inner feelings, like sadness, fear, love and empathy.
• Explain that emotional health is not being powerless but it simply means being assertive instead of aggressive and setting boundaries.
• Become a good detective. Observe behavioural patterns, changes in attitude.
• Do not be afraid to check the drawers and under the beds of their bedrooms. Remember that they are under your roof.
• Expose your sons to positive role models
• Engage them to be a part of compassionate acts like feeding the homeless
• Talk to them about their father in a positive way. It doesn’t matter how your relationship ended. Remember that something good happened in the beginning.
• Never make them the man of the house. It is ok to show them what a strong woman looks like
Finally teach them planning, respect, to be trustworthy, accountable and self disciplined. Thankfully, I can say that these practices have allowed me to raise two young men of whom I am extremely proud of today without needing to go to special counselling.
Happy International Men’s Day
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