15 Ways a Mom Can Help Her Fatherless Teenage Son

Raising children is a process. Toddler years focus on building the foundation of lifelong trust, while character training, Bible truth, and discipleship are planted in childhood to bring forth fruit later. The teenage years, however, are a transition into adulthood, a preparation for independence.

When the death of a father occurs it is crucial that one of the seeds planted is the truth that God brings life after death (John 10:10)  and God promises to be a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). 

For the teenage boy, it is essential to understand that their hormones are raging, as are their thoughts and emotions. They do not want to be that fatherless kid or family, they just want to be normal. Friends can become more important than their mom, they desire significance, fear failure, need activity and rest, and their perspective is limited to now.  This limited perspective makes them unaware of the long-term impact of the loss of an earthly dad and it can take years to process that grief. It’s also good for mom to remember,  they are not as mature as we think they should be!

15 Ways a Mom Can Help her fatherless Teenage Son: 

  1. Loosen the leash – In the early years, the role of a mother in the life of her child is to nurture, wipe their tears, and provide boundaries to keep them safe. As they move towards independence, it is important to step back and give space for mistakes to be made while under your care.
  2. Offer choices – Even though all seasons of parenting often work best when a child is given options and freedom to make their own decisions, this is especially helpful now. Boys will become men who will step into various leadership roles once they leave your home. Instead of telling your teenage son to be home by a specific time, ask him when he plans to return. Of course, negotiations can be made, but letting him lead will bring great benefits.
  3. Move to the background but don’t disappear! As the single parent, your son still needs to know you are there. Continue to affirm what you can help him when needed (without the helicopter wings), and stay in the game. You may need to use a different rule book, but it’s not time to check out entirely because you feel he is “of age” to do things without you. 
  4. Be intentional to insert mentors – Boys growing up without an earthly father lose not only their dad but also a role model and one who teaches them all they need to know about life. Lessons from a dad on all the how-to’s, from changing a tire to dating a girl are still needed. Look for men already in his life – a coach, teacher, granddad, or godly man in your church. Set up a time to meet with the man and his wife, giving them permission to speak into your son’s life (and yours). This relationship doesn’t need to be “official” or super formal. Perhaps the dad of your son’s best friend might be willing to include your boy when teaching his own son.

    The Importance of Mentors for the fatherless and how to ask
    The Importance of a Mentor Part One
    The Value of a Mentor Part Two
    The Importance of a Mentor Part Three

  1. Stay connected – The teenage years are known for a separation between parent and child, with teens spending a lot of time in their room behind closed doors. While this is normal, it doesn’t mean that you cannot continue to have a relationship, although you will need to be more creative in doing so. Offer to pay for a tank of gas, leave his favorite snack on the bed, and ask about his day but accept silence if he isn’t in the mood to talk.
  2. Affirm what you can – Losing the “atta boy” or “way to go” of a dad is one of the greatest secondary losses of a young man, and you will not be able to replace that. However, know that he hungers for affirmation. Look for opportunities to affirm his behavior and choices, understanding that during these years, you may have to look hard to do so but find something in his life that you can affirm. 
  3.  Feed the boy! “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is so true in the teenage years. Yes, you may feel that he will eat you out of the house and home but find a way to keep your pantry stocked; you will be glad you did!
  4. Show and speak respect – Replace the word “love” with respect, telling him “I respect you” vs. “I love you.” It is amazing the difference this will make by tweaking that one little word! You will see his emotional muscles puff up immediately. Be careful to also watch your tone of voice, the look in your eyes, and your body language. Respect is vital to a man and they will bristle with the slightest disrespectful response.
  5. Discipline: Let natural consequences do the work (clip your helicopter wings!).
  6. Provide opportunities for work – Physical work provides so many benefits for a young man. God designed men to work so he is fulfilling what he was created to do. Idle time is never our friend. He will learn the value of earning money to provide for his needs and desires. He will experience reporting to an authority outside the home. A work ethic is developed, life skills are learned, and often a mentor relationship may be formed.
  7. Don’t pay their way – Entitlement is a huge enemy to growth and a temptation for us all to feel the world owes us. Boys who have experienced the absence of a dad might lean towards a victim mentality instead of having victory over their circumstances. Single moms often want to make up for that loss by paying for everything, believing they have already experienced enough pain. Paying for their cell phone or car insurance will not prepare them for life. At some point, they will have expenses. Requiring them to work to pay for the basics while in your home allows you to train in budgeting. Scripture teaches, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
  8.  Communicate Clearly – The lines of communication often become blurred or easily violated in the teenage season. Often, there is little communication due to different schedules. Just as you would ask a toddler to repeat back a command to confirm they heard your instruction, it is still important to make sure you are on the same page. When you want to be sure there is no misunderstanding, a contract is helpful, especially when it comes to the bigger issues, for example, when your teen starts to drive, you may consider a driving contract.
  9. Model vs. telling them the way to go – Most of your days of verbal instruction are over. Many voices are speaking into your son’s life. Although you are the mom, be careful not to have the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher, “wa, wa-wa, wa-wa.” He will easily tune you out. Wisely insert mentors, as discussed above, who prayerfully offer the same wise guidance as your own, but will be received easier because it is not coming from you – that’s just the way it goes!
  10. Pray, don’t say – Actions speak louder than words; as mentioned above, limiting the words of your mouth to only the basics will prove beneficial. Exercising self-control in this area is not easy but crucial. Learn to communicate every concern with God, knowing that He hears your cry and is able to work in ways we never can.
  11.  Be the mom and let God be Father – even though all of the above may make you feel that your mothering days are over, your teen still needs you cheering him on. Mistakes will be made requiring grace and forgiveness, but rest in the promise that your son has a Father who cares about him more than you ever will. Look to God as your Husband and depend on Him as the Father to your teen. 

Every story is unique, and raising teenage boys without a dad requires careful navigation. Although there will be challenges, these days have the potential to be some of the sweetest years between mother and son.