While Part 1 focused on the issues between absent fathers and their daughters, this part is about a father’s impact on their sons. An absent father is defined as a father who is either not there physically or emotionally. This could be due to illness or death, but also being present but not connected.
A father is the first person to “choose” his son or daughter. If a father walks out when the child is young, it sends the message of rejection, and usually the child will spend most of his life trying to “earn” the absent father’s respect or attention, even if the father is not even in the picture. Young men who have absent dads often rebel, thinking, “If I’m not good enough for my dad, then I’ll just not be good enough for anyone.” This can lead to acting out, poor grades, drug and alcohol abuse and early sexual promiscuity.
The effects on a boy from an absent dad can go deep, right down to the boy’s sense of masculinity. If his father is not around, there is no one to teach him how to be a man. Single moms can try to fill in the gaps, but there is no substitute for a father. Many times, step dads or father figures are available and if the boy and this figure have a good bond, then this can replace the actual biological father’s absent influence. However, there will always be a hole in the boy’s self-esteem from not having his blood-father available to him.
In the documentary, Absent, filmmaker Justin Hunt, “explores how the absence of a father inflicts a deep, lifelong wound on men and women in all walks of life, from Metallica‘s James Hetfield and champion boxer Johnny Tapia to homeless people and prostitutes.” All of the prostitutes came from fatherless homes and the struggles in Hetfield’s and Tapia’s (now deceased) life can be traced back to an absent father.
So what are single moms and absent dads to do? Here are some suggestions that will most likely make a difference in the boy’s life:
- Moms, don’t try to fill in for dad. The best thing you can do is to find a man (family friend, teacher, clergy, therapist, etc.) that your son feels comfortable with. That bond can go far in keeping your son on the right track.
- Keep a lookout for strange behavior. If your son is suddenly overly moody, irritable, sleeping too much or not at all, or acting out, he may need professional help. These are all signs of not only depression, but can be indicators of drug use.
- Absent dads, it is never too late to come back into your son’s life. He may have trouble accepting you at first, but hang in there. He needs you in order to develop into a productive member of society.
- Emotionally detached dads, if you can’t form a bond with your son, then get professional help. A therapist can help you learn to tap into your feelings and come up with activities that you can do with your son.
Taking the time to make sure your son has a strong male figure in his life is one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Your son will thank you for it one day!