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A Worried Mother’s Guide to Helping Her Troubled Son

The other day, a woman asked whether she should allow her son to visit with his father. “His father always promises to spend time with him but never shows up. Should I continue to let my son see him?”  Without question, the answer is yes. A son who is disconnected from his father is more likely to struggle in life. A son who is close to his father—even if his father is inconsistent—is more likely to shine. 

When you deny your son access to his father, he is likely to find an unconscious way to bond with him. 

Often, he’ll adopt traits or repeat behaviors that are judged as negative in his father. In doing so, the son unwittingly weaves a subterranean thread that ties the two of them together. A son without his father can struggle with anxiety, depression, drugs, alcohol, lack of motivation, failed relationships and much more. 

For these reasons alone, it’s essential to keep the door open to your son’s father. If you are a mom reading this, answer this question: “Are you willing to put aside feelings of hurt and anger if you knew it would help your son?” Doing so might not be easy, but it’s vital. In a fundamental way, you hold the key to your son’s happiness. 

If you really want your son to thrive, help him get back to his father. It doesn’t matter how abysmal the relationship between the two of you was. What matters more is your son’s relationship with him. Your son is unlikely to make the journey to his father on his own. You are, like it or not, the lynchpin between them. When your son feels your permission and encouragement, he will go there. 

Helping him strengthen his relationship with his father will not diminish the closeness you have with him. It will actually deepen it. Even if he cannot verbalize it, your son will be deeply appreciative of what you’re doing. 

  • Start telling him positive things about his father. It doesn’t matter how old your son is. He can be 15 or 45. It’s never too late for a boy to embrace his father. It also doesn’t matter if his dad is living, deceased, in love with another woman or sitting behind bars. If you can help your son embrace his father, you are serving his best interests.
  • Tell your son how the two of you met and how his father won your heart. A positive image of the closeness you once shared with his father can inspire feelings of calm and wellbeing in your son. That very closeness was the source of your son’s life.
  • Tell him about the qualities you admire most in his father and how those same qualities live in him. Specifically, say words like these: “You are creative and handsome, just like your father.” Pick traits that your son shares with him. If your son is intelligent or generous or witty like his father, let him know. Tell him: “I cherished those very qualities in your dad.” When you encourage your son to embrace what he inherits from his father, you validate him.

If he feels your authenticity, your son will begin to get curious about his dad. From there, a lot can happen. Most importantly, you will have taken an important step in setting your son on the road to a happier, healthier, more successful life. 

Published in ELEPHANT JOURNAL, August 8, 2014

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