Pastor's Desk - Fatherlessness

Jun 05, 2022

When you grow up a fatherless son, in many ways you have to raise yourself. No one tells you what looks good on you, how to carry yourself, or provides the approval. Without a father, you grow up never knowing what you didn't have. There is no intimate model of who you want to become, so it's as if you're always guessing. John Hickenlooper

Wow, this is a real phenomenon across the world and particularly so in the Caribbean. Jamaica is no exception. Fatherlessness is experienced at a personal level when a mother will say, her child has no father as he disappeared after he learned I was pregnant; or he was never a part of my child’s life, or we had a disagreement and he stopped supporting the child. These are stories that some single mothers share, and there are many others I have not highlighted here. The common thread about fatherlessness in this context is where the father fails to take responsibility for a child whose conception and birth he contributed to.

This feature is experienced at the level of older children and youth who have no father and who do need a father. Some of these kids in school need help with some basic decisions of life, such as subjects to choose for a career.; attitudes to adopt in relating to peers of the opposite sex. Regrettably the same pattern of behaviour exhibited by the father who has been absent, becomes evident in the life of children as they struggle through the period of adolescence (aka. Adults with less sense).

Studies have shown that children who are fatherless are,

 More Likely to be Aggressive, more likely to be depressed, more likely to have low Self-Esteem, More Likely to Do Poorly in Schools, More Likely to Be Incarcerated and to Commit Suicide and more likely to Use Drugs. It has also been observed that “Children growing up in households where the father is absent account for 71% of all high school dropouts”.

A little word of caution here, and that is, I do not believe that every child who has not had a meaningful contact with his/her father will experience all or any of these behaviours. But they are likely.

Some of the other behaviours which fatherlessness could portray are, a lack of respect for girls and women.; the display of a behaviour which betrays a philosophy that relationship with women is utilitarian. They exist to satisfy the needs of men only, and when they can no longer meet these needs they are discarded.

Many youngsters search endlessly for a father’s love in dysfunctional relationships and end up hurt, or themselves becoming abusers, users and haters.

Another level of fatherlessness is where the biological father is present but disconnected emotionally. He provides for the material wellbeing of his children, but is absent from their lives at a deep level. There is no one-on-one contact, no dialogue to discover needs, thoughts and feelings of children. He is never aware of their fears, or dreams, or desires – present but absent. He fails to offer to the children a sense of emotional and spiritual security.

This approach unfortunately transfers to adult relationships, where a woman may desire her partner to speak to her at an emotional level, but he is invariably absent at that level.

This phenomenon of fatherlessness can be addressed at many levels.

  • Fathers who realize they have not been present, can seek through counseling or coaching to become more effective fathers in the life of their children. Listen to them more, (note, I said ‘listen’, not talk.) Hear what they have to say, what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Do activities with them, even if you and their mother may not be on speaking terms. Show some interest, get to know them better. This may be awkward and uncomfortable initially, but the children will appreciate the effort. Press on.
  • Develop one-on-one time with the boys as well as the girls. This will help to build confidence in them, offer emotional security and help to develop safe boundaries. Fathers are reminded in Col.3, not to provoke their children, to wrath but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Col 3:21)

The church could help by,

  • Organizing seminars for men on how to parent. How to build a healthy relationship with their sons and daughters throughout their lives.
  • The church can help fathers to see themselves as more than a pocket, or ATM, but a significant resource for their children’s holistic development.
  • The church can organize seminars with young men who are fatherless, to help them address issues of forgiveness, low self-esteem, addressing a victim mentality; helping them to find positive role models and learning to manage anger and resentment.
  • Girls react differently from boys, and so the church can develop appropriate ministries for single mothers and girls to address some of those specific needs.

Youngers who are in this position,

  • Must challenge the notion or even the statistic that because they are fatherless, they won’t come to anything, they will be school drop-outs, they will be early parents and will be on drugs, and gang recruits.
  • They can be guided to seek good role models and participate in the programmes organized by the churches in the community to offer them livable skills.

This is by no means exhaustive. Fatherlessness is a real issue in our country and our region. The church must find a way to make a difference in the lives of those persons who are fatherless and those fathers whose behaviours and attitudes contribute to fatherlessness in the life of children.

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