Odds are good that you know someone who's a single parent. But, did you know the United States is home to the world's highest rate of children living in single-parent households? According to the US Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children in the US is being raised without a father. Sure, dads are single parents too, but the stats tell us that 80% of single parents are moms.
Roland Warren, President and CEO of Care Net, was recently interviewed by Jim Daily at Focus on the Family about how to offer help and encouragement to single moms trying to raise boys. I encourage you to listen in and watch the two-part interview. Below, you'll find access to the two full interviews along with some highlights for help and encouragement today.
Helping Single Moms Raise Boys (Part 1)
Roland Warren, who was raised by a single mom, offers encouragement for helping single moms raise boys. He describes the importance of acknowledging loss in this first interview.
Warren's latest book is called Raising Sons of Promise: A Guide for Single Mothers of Boys and encourages moms to raise future husbands and fathers.
Warren talks about single moms raising boys because he grew up without a dad in his life. Warren explains his background caused him to think about the role of fathers and how important they are to the well-being of kids. And, given the father absence crisis in our nation, he was led to consider the role of single moms. Because, in so many of those cases, dad may not step into the picture. "...If you're going to break the cycle of father absence, you certainly need to engage dads…but the other key is helping moms raise their boys—not just to be good men but also to be good husbands and good fathers..." says Warren.
Acknowledge the Loss
Roland points out, the first step is acknowledging the loss—calling it what it is and not trying to reframe it or repackage it into something it's not. Warren says, "You may have to admit that you're angry...we must talk about the pain and loss to start healing...a man made a promise to you and didn't keep that promise. He made a promise to your son and didn't keep that promise..."
Roland shares a story about how he realized he needed to process his own loss:
"When I was president of National Fatherhood Initiative, I told a story about being at my father's funeral, my father was a pastor later in life and had turned his life around. People were coming up to the pulpit at the funeral and saying all these amazing things about my father. I found myself becoming enraged and I didn't even know where it was coming from...we weren't in conflict or anything. Finally, this one guy comes up and says, “I was in prison and pastor Warren (my dad) came to me and mentored me…” and I was ready to punch somebody out."
Roland continues, "By this time...I had attended Princeton undergrad and Penn State for an MBA. I remember asking myself, “Did I need to go to prison in order to get my father's love and attention? In retrospect, I had not learned how to process the loss. It was important for my mom to help me process it all…rather than just move on...giving that speech, crying in front of hundreds of people…I was really just a 10-year-old boy waiting for a father who hadn't shown up. I had a hole in my soul."
A single mom has the role of helping her son work through the loss process and keep hope in God—that God is a God who sees all and hears all. You have the role of teaching and reminding your son to walk in that promise. That God sees you, hears you, and loves you. Despite the obstacles, God wants good for you and He wants you to raise a son who will be a great husband and dad.
Helping Single Moms Raise Boys (Part 2)
Warren shifts from acknowledging loss in the first interview, to how single moms can connect with their sons and cast a vision for what a husband and father should look like in part 2.
In discussing his newest book, Roland says, "One of my goals in writing this book was to help single moms hear from their son—things that maybe their son didn’t or doesn't have the ability to say—things that I would have wanted to tell my mom when I was 10 years old but didn't have the emotional intelligence or verbal skills to say." He continues, "The first part is about her journey. The second part is about his journey—his path and how to guide him—to give mom insight on things he may be thinking—that he hasn't been able to express—so that you can be more intentional."
Single mom: connect with your son
We know that boys and young men are not thriving the way they should be—all the data seems to say this. One of the key things is, early on, you want to be cultivating connections with your son. Be intentional in teaching your son John 14:18 where Christ says, "I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you."
Cast a vision for your son
Cast a vision for God's design of marriage and fatherhood. Warren explains, "Your son is living in an environment that is contrary—the opposite of what you want for him." We need to be careful that we know what being a good husband and father includes, and teach those things to our sons.
For example, even though your son's dad may not have followed through on his promises, set the standard that your word is your bond. Teach your son that a godly husband and father keeps his promises.
Warren shares a story about his dad,
"My dad was supposed to take me for ice cream. I remember waiting and waiting. I can still see myself waiting under this tree for him to come. He never showed up. I have to admit, my heart hardened at that moment because I cried and said to myself…I'm never going to cry about this again. Then, I lowered my expectations so I wouldn't be hurt again."
When promise after promise is broken by a dad, your son can start to believe that he’s not worthy of people keeping promises for him. Single moms play an important role because your son needs to be able to come to you and explain that hurt. Your role is vital, to help him process that hurt. Don't be afraid as a single mom to pick up on the hurt and discuss with your son how important it is to follow through on promises made. Use these challenges as teaching moments to point to the God who is always there, the One whose promises made are promises kept.