Seeking good male influences in a young girl's life

Child Life

March 15, 1998|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I'm a single mother and have adopted a little girl of 9. She really needs some balance by having some male contacts. I wonder if you have any suggestions.

Parents flying solo often carry a load of guilt about picking positive influences for their children.

"A lot of parents struggle with this issue," says Diane Chambers, the Atlanta-based author of "Solo Parenting" (Fairview Press, $12.95).

A single mom can turn to male coaches, teachers and church volunteers, as well as relatives and friends, experts and readers say.

"Girls identify more with their mothers, but men are the other half of the planet and offer a different perspective," says Andrea Engber, author of "The Complete Single Mother" (Adams Publishing, $12.95, Canada $17.95).

Girls need that perspective to be able to build healthy relationships as teen-agers and as adults, the experts agree.

Start off by pointing out good qualities in males of all ages in your everyday life, Engber suggests.

"One of the first things is to look for people in your daily life -- a pharmacist who is particularly attentive, a neighbor who is kind to animals, a waiter who is polite," says Engber, who lives near Charlotte, N.C.

Also look for qualities in famous men such as "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, who is also a single dad who is good to his employees, Engber says.

For younger children, Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo are appropriate examples of men who relate well to children.

"While you're trying to teach her about good qualities, you also want to teach her to be her own person so she makes good decisions when choosing male friends," says Engber, founder of the nonprofit National Organization of Single Mothers.

As a girl grows out of the mommy-centered stage, sports provide one source of balance.

"Try to get her into some kind of sports where predominantly the coaches are men," says reader Jeanne Allin of Greenville, R.I. "My daughter had wonderful experiences."

Reader Christine Eddings of Brandon, Fla., agrees.

"Enroll her in tae kwon do," she says. "My daughter has been doing that for three years and has had some very positive male contacts and has learned very valuable life skills."

Seek out church groups that encourage parents to bring their children, suggests David R. Beckman, a dentist in Parma Heights, Ohio.

Carolyn Plante of Slatersville, R.I., suggests that single moms turn to other fathers.

"I know from personal experience that if you tell another dad that your daughter needs the positive influence of a man, they would include her in activities," Plante says.

When a girl starts to date, a man she trusts may be able to help her try to figure out boys, Engber says. But, the experts warn, a single mom should avoid bringing her own boyfriends in and out of her daughter's life.

No matter where a mother looks to find male role models, she must be cautious and warn her daughter about possible abuses without evoking fear, the experts say.

Chambers offers these additional suggestions to give a child balance:

* Expose your kids to a variety of activities that include both sexes.

* Forget the stereotypes and encourage talent in several areas.

* Don't pretend to know how the other sex feels. Turn to a trusted friend of the opposite sex who can talk with your child.

For more coping strategies and resources, contact the National Council for Single Adoptive Parents at 202-966-6367, or write to P.O. Box 15084, Chevy Chase, Md. 20825. The group sells a handbook for $20 (shipping is included).

To find out about different membership levels in the National Organization of Single Mothers, write to Single Mother, Box 68, Midland, N.C. 28107; or call 704-888-KIDS.

To request a quarterly newsletter that Chambers writes for single parents, contact her at 770-736-8601, or write to P.O. Box 450246, Atlanta, Ga. 31145-0246. The newsletter costs $6 a year.

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at 800-827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2322 Hales Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27608, or send e-mail to

* Preschool or home? "My child is 2 1/2 and I'm having a difficult time deciding whether to send him to preschool," says Jackie Gurney of Illinois. "I didn't go, and I know times have changed. Is it really necessary? What are the benefits?"

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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