As a family therapist, I am interested in inviting and involving men to counselling sessions. I believe that men have a lot to say about their relationships with their partners and children. What has prevented them from being more active and participant in their family life perhaps has to do with social, cultural and historical realities and/or myths that affected men for many centuries.
I am going to share with you one of the important contributing factors that influence family members’ interactions and relationships with one another. This particular fact is ‘not growing up with a particular male figure like a father’.
Children with any family backgrounds (social and economic status, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation and ethnic backgrounds) are at risk of experiencing living and growing up without fathers. The important role of fathers in children’s life need to be more pronounced.
It is said our today men used to be fragile sensitive young boys. Men used to be young boys who lived in family and possibly experienced hardship, abuse, and disconnection. ‘Growing up without fathers’ has significant impact on young boys’ identity as a person.
Some families with children, who seek counselling, are concerned about their children’s emotional and behavioural and social wellbeing. When we talk about children’s difficulties, we often realize that parents’ personal and emotional difficulties play an important role on children’ social and emotional problems.
It is clear that the wellbeing of children is linked to the wellbeing of their parents; particularly, when children are young. Creating a safe and trusting environment for ‘fathers without fathers’ to speak about their experiences of hardship and difficulties is a key to supporting ‘fathers without fathers’ to re-connect with themselves and their children.
In our counselling sessions, ‘fathers without fathers’ shared the effects of dominant cultural myths/expectations on men and their roles in family. They expressed their experiences of disconnection, pressure, and confusion around their roles in relationships with other men as well as with women and children.
Men who shared their wisdom and challenges in our sessions were very enthusiastic about their part in changing the dominant cultural beliefs about men. They felt that initiating conversations in a safe environment is the first step to tackle this social problem. They expressed their willingness to support other men to become more comfortable with sharing and addressing their emotional social problems.
Their wisdom and knowledge were noted during our conversations. I got their permission to share with you some of their ideas that generated in our conversations. They are as follows:
▪ We, men, collectively need to challenge ‘superhero’ ideas about the role of men in family and adjust our expectations to make them more realistic and collaborative
▪ We, as a community of men, need to get together and dissect the dominant discourses about manhood which are supported by social and cultural beliefs
▪ We, men, need to encourage each other to work with our partners and utilize each other’s strengths instead of perpetuating male domination discourse.
▪ We, as a community, need to fund programs that address what ‘fathers without fathers’ experienced in the past, that support men to develop new relationships with themselves and others, and shape their identity as a person.
- We, men, are hopeful that our actions be beneficial to our children and make them more connected to themselves, their family members and their communities.
Hope our collective ideas and actions bring new possibilities to people’s lives!