Few pains sear the heart of a little boy like the sting of his own father rejecting him. When you are the mother of a boy rejected by his dad, you face a monumental task. You will need to show your son the unconditional love and support that he is missing from his dad. While challenging, this is a journey that many women travel and a painful obstacle that many sons must overcome.
Find your own support system. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress or your own grief, you won’t be able to parent effectively. The old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” speaks the truth! Seek out adult friendships to vent your anger and frustration. Avoid badmouthing your son’s father in front of him; that will only hurt and confuse your little guy.
Tell your son helpful truth. Young children often blame themselves when a parent leaves. Explain to your son that he didn’t do anything to make daddy leave -- that daddy just couldn’t be a dad anymore. Your son doesn’t need to know any adult details, such as daddy’s gambling habit or his new girlfriend. Expect to continue this conversation as your little boy grows older.
Encourage your son to express his feelings. Let him know that his thoughts and feelings are important to you. Allow him to feel sad and angry. You may need to coax your little munchkin to talk about his feelings if he isn’t very verbal. You might say things like, “You look like you're feeling sad right now. Do you want to talk about it?" or “Are you throwing blocks because you’re angry?” Try helping your little guy express his emotions through exercise or art. Running through the grass at the park may help release mad feelings, while painting with “sad” colors might help alleviate grief. These emotions won’t be fun for you to witness, but your little guy needs to know that it’s okay to feel bad about his father.
Expect emotional or behavioral difficulties while he adjusts. Angry boys can become violent or aggressive. Little ones feeling out of control might become overly dependent on routines and schedules. If your child is acting out in anger or frustration, try to teach him that he can feel emotions without acting on them. You might say, “It’s okay to feel mad, son, but it’s not okay to break your sister’s toy. Let’s go do some jumping jacks or paint a picture until you feel better.” Try to love your little guy through his ugly behavior, even if his tantrums are driving you nuts!
Find positive male role models for your little boy. Preschoolers are discovering the differences between men and women -- and exploring where they fit into the equation. No matter how good of a mother you are, you’re not a father. You just don’t have boy parts. Your son will benefit from having a good man to model his behavior after. Calling all grandpas, uncles, and trusted friends! A safe male relative or friend will become invaluable to you during potty training mishaps or on father-son day at preschool.
Remember that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Even though the lack of a father is all-consuming for your little guy at the moment, it might not always be. As he grows and matures, the loss will still affect him, but he will understand the situation better.