Yes, single moms — including divorced, widowed and never-married moms– CAN raise healthy, well-adjusted boys. My boys and I are proof.
Here are my top 5 tips for single moms raising boys:
1. Support/facilitate your boy’s relationship w his father. Even if he cheated on you. Even if he doesn’t consistently pay child support. Even if he sometimes (or often) lets your kid down. Boys NEED their dads; it is impossible to overestimate the importance of this relationship. Even if dad isn’t a “great dad” or “great man” — do what you can to facilitate the relationship, even if that means taking your son to visit his dad in prison. Or driving out of your way.It can also mean not being so strict about “the schedule.” For instance, if my boys are scheduled to be with me, but their Dad asks if they can spend time with him them — in my case, perhaps he asks if they can go snowmobiling with him because it’s snowed — I say yes whenever I can (which is, unless we have another activity scheduled and the boys aren’t available).
2. Set up opportunities for your boys to spend time with good men. Got a great extended family? Make sure your boys spend time with grandpa, with their uncles, with older cousins. Likewise, look for “good men” in your community — coaches, men at church, at school. If at all possible, find and connect your son with a good man who shares one of his interests. My oldest son went fishing many times with a man in our community who shares his love of fishing.
3. Learn about boys. It might sound stupid and obvious, but I’ve never been a boy. I have no intuitive or felt understanding of what it’s like to be a boy, and I have no first-hand experience of boy culture or the pressures boys face on a daily basis. (But boy — can I tell you about “mean girl” culture in 7th grade!) But the fact is, boy perceive and experience the world differently than girls, and the more you understanding his development and experience, the better you’re be able to help him navigate the world (in a way that makes sense to him and respect his development.)
Read books by Michael Gurian and Michael Thompson. Check out The Mama’s Boy Myth, by Kate Lombardi and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas. If you’ve got tweens or teens, Rosalind Wiseman’s Masterminds & Wingmen is a must-read. (Our Resources page lists even more books & website to help you learn about and understand boys.)
4. Never, ever tell your son he is the “man of the house.” Boys deserve a chance to be children. Your son may indeed be the oldest male in your household, but that does not mean he should be expected to take on any physical or emotional responsibility for the well-being of your family. It’s perfectly OK (advisable, even!) to expect boys to contribute to the well-being of the family; all kids should have chores, and there’s nothing wrong with asking or requiring your son to shovel snow and help fix a broken water heater. But please, never imply, through your words or actions, that your son is expected to support you or solve your problems in any way.
5. Ignore the naysayers! The news articles are impossible to miss, especially when you’re a single mom of a boy: boys who grow up in single parent households are more likely to get poor grades, more likely to get in trouble, more likely to struggle economically later in life. And yeah — there’s research to back all of that up. But there are a few problems with the research:
- Correlation doesn’t equal causation. Simply because these things are true for some boys who grew up in single parent household does not mean that growing up in a single parent household CAUSED those outcomes. Other factors — socioeconomic status, mental or physical illness, poor schools, etc. — may well contribute to poor outcomes, and may even be the most significant factors.
- These studies are almost all based on outdated family concepts. In most of the studies, “single parent household” means “no involvement whatsoever by the father.” And that’s not necessarily the case for many families today. My kids live in a single parent family, but they spend lots of time with their dad — and that makes a difference.
No research study can tell you what will happen with your son, with your family. Focus your time, attention and efforts on helping your boys and yourself grow and thrive, and I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome.
Need more concrete guidance? Jennifer’s book, The First-Time Mom’s Guide to Raising Boys, can help moms navigate boys’ tween years (approximately ages 8-12) with confidence.