As a single mother, you’re the provider, the problem-solver, and the primary guardian of your son. You’re also his main role model. But no matter how great a mother you are, there’s one role that you can never fill: that of a father. Research has shown that young boys benefit from contact with their fathers, even if they don’t live at home. Boys whose fathers are in the picture tend to do better socially, academically, and financially than those whose fathers aren’t in the picture. However, that doesn’t mean your sons are destined to be worse off than their peers with fathers. It means that as a single mother, you face challenges above and beyond other parents. Read on to find out how you can meet those challenges.

Instill Confidence and a Sense of Identity in Your Son

Support your son by identifying his strengths and talents. Praise him for all he does and encourage him to pursue the activities he enjoys. Fatherless boys often struggle with identity and belonging. Without a father, boys may reach out to groups that will help them to forge their personal identities. As a single mother, you can help your son to do this in a positive way by encouraging your son to play on sports teams, join a youth or church group, club, or outdoors group. Encourage your son to do so at a young age in order to help him avoid falling in with a bad crowd in his teenage years.

Helping Him Deal with Anger and Blame

Your son may struggle to express his feelings when it comes to his father. Never trash talk his father in front of him. If he comes to you with questions, answer them honestly. Give him the vocabulary to express himself and encourage him to talk about his feelings. You should validate his feelings as opposed to telling him what or how to feel with respect to his father. Show compassion and your son will be more likely to grow up to be compassionate. Anger can manifest less obviously sometimes, as self-loathing, depression, or bullying-either as a victim or a perpetrator.

Teaching About Relationships and Trust

Watching two parents interact as a couple is one of the ways that kids gather ideas about relationships. Boys without fathers may have more questions than usual about sex and romantic relationships. Fatherless boys may be especially vulnerable when it comes to relationships. They may have trust issues or anger issues. As a mother, you need to educate your son on sex and relationships as best as you can. Ensure that he has at least one male role model that he can go to when he has questions-an uncle, a grandfather, or an older cousin.

If you’re a single mother, you face special challenges in raising a son. Not only are boys without fathers more vulnerable than boys with fathers, they are also more likely to struggle with behavioral issues. Help your son by teaching him to be confident, express his feelings, and gravitate towards healthy relationships.