A Cry… A Call
What does someone hold on to?
The officer’s heart went out to the handcuffed kid, for he too, grew up without a father.
That, perhaps, is the cry of the fatherless –a raw call for a mentor, especially a man, a father-figure; to come into one’s life to help a young person through the social, emotional, psychological, and even physical development that are all part of a child’s transition into maturity.
Me, a Mentor?
While you may catch a glimpse of the desperate need to reach the fatherless as a Dad Mentor, it is not surprising that you might at the same time question whether you have the time, resources, ability, as well as the emotional or psychological stability to do so. These are valid concerns that need to be addressed before you attempt to engage in someone’s life. However, it is equally important to take stock of the strengths you already have.
Take heart. Though no man can substitute a child’s father, many have what is needed to build a child up. You just need to know what to give and how to give to a child. And, it often begins with addressing his fears, those expressed or otherwise.
Drive Out Fear
The fears that the fatherless have, may in fact be not too different from the fears that everyone contends with. It boils down to anxiety related to the word “I” – Identity. Interestingly enough, in the process of addressing such fears, your own questions about a person’s worth may be answered as well.
In Father Fiction –Chapters for a Fatherless Generation, Donald Miller, founder of The Mentoring Project, wrote that it is not just fatherless kids who feel unimportant; all of us struggle with a sense of identity and belonging. However, the struggle for a sense of identity may be accentuated in the fatherless.
Growing up without a dad and watching his mum struggle to make ends meet, Miller became convinced that things would have been better for his loved ones if he had not been born. This was a wrong belief that he had to learn to put aside as an adult.
Unfortunately, many children, like Miller, grow up with wrong thoughts about themselves because of the situations they are in. In contrast, Miller proposes imparting into a child the belief that this world needs him, even if his biological father is or was not able to let him know how important he is.
As such, it is vital for a Dad Mentor to help a child substitute the wrong understanding of himself with the right one. Give him the right belief to fight away his wrong thoughts and fears. The steps are not as simple as ABC because transforming lives takes courage and commitment. But begin by:
• A -Affirming his value as a person simply because he exists. This is regardless of what he has achieved academically, socially, or economically. Affirmation is particularly healing for someone who does not have ‘access’ to what his Dad was to give due diligence to: a relationship in which a father delights in his child, protection of the household, and plans for the family.
To affirm a child or teenager is possibly the easiest, and yet toughest thing you need to do as a Dad Mentor. It is easy because you merely need to tell it to him face-to-face or in written form –all at an appropriate time of course, when trust is developed. But it is tough, because before you are truly able to affirm another, you need to firmly believe in your intrinsic value and appreciate your inner strengths.
• B -Believing in his potential to be better than he is now. At the heart of the matter is identity. When a person has an accurate understanding of his worth, other things such as academic progress, as well as work and family stability, will most likely follow. Nonetheless, communicate clearly that you see positive traits in him that can be developed. He needs to hear it.
• C –Cheering him on. Listen to him. Understand his motivations. Know his aspirations. Help him work on the steps necessary to reach his goals.
One More Step
A Dad Mentor’s affirmation, belief and good cheer is empowering, even lifesaving. Every child has to find his tools to fight away his drowning fears. By coming alongside, you add more devices and handles that can help him take the step towards fearlessness. Give a child a core belief in his worth that he can hold on to for life.
Miller, Donald (2010) Father Fiction –Chapters for a Fatherless Generation, Howard Books, New York, USA, Chapter Four: Belonging.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 29-02-2012.