Q: Being a single parent, I am very concerned about my eldest son’s performance at school. His grades have been dipping in the last year and he isn’t serious about his studies. He gets so agitated whenever I try to talk to him about it. At times I fear that he is becoming like his father. I don’t understand how to make him realize that he needs to work hard to have a better future.
I understand from your question that you are very concerned about your son’s education and future. It must be challenging for you as a single mother when your son gets agitated and rebels. It is quite natural, as a parent, to be anxious about your son’s performance in academics. You could start to deal with this by asking what the possible reasons are for the dip in your son’s grades. Ask yourself- do your expectations match your son’s expectations about his higher education?
Have you discussed this with him? Is there anything that has happened or is happening at your home or in his school that could be affecting his studies? It is good to check what is happening at the school like friendships, relationships etc. These are the possible areas to explore. The other question you need to ask yourself is, is there any unfinished business with regard to you becoming a single parent? Your anxiety with regard to your son becoming like his father and your past relationship with your husband should be given attention.
Your son is in his late teens, he may want more freedom to make decisions and at this age it is very crucial for him to develop and establish his own identity for a smooth transition into adulthood. If his grades are dipping only over the last year, it most probably is not much to do with his ability. As a single parent you care a lot about his studies however sometimes your expression of care may spill into the area of control which can become suffocating for him to grow as a whole person at this point in his life.
In this situation, the core issue could be control—adolescents want to feel in control of their lives and parents want adolescents to know that they still have control. You may have to take the risk of trusting him with his decisions. This will certainly facilitate a balanced holistic growth which will enable your son to become a better person. It will be very helpful for your son if you can trust him with the responsibility to choose his heart’s passion.
Q: I was totally shattered when I found pornographic literature in my son’s school bag. Being a single parent, I am clueless about how to deal with this situation.
It’s every parent’s nightmare and especially difficult as a single parent with no one to share this with. There are probably many questions running through your mind. However, at least now you know and you can do something about it. So let us see what options we have. It could be a young boy’s natural curiosity that is fed by excessive exposure of sexually explicit material in the media or Internet. If this is the case, you, as the parent, should pay attention to his exposure to sexually explicit messages through the media.
This kind of sexually explicit material presents fraudulent messages about human sexuality and could lead to addictive behavior at an early age. It could also be because of peer influence. Some of the questions you can consider asking your son are – how did he have access to these materials? How long has this been going on? Does he have any other access to pornographic material (internet café, iPod, cell phone, DVD etc.)?
If your son is hooked to internet pornography you may consider keeping the computer in a public area and install filtering software which will block pornographic sites to some extent. You can also set “safe search preference” on your search engine which prevents accidental exposure. There could be other underlying root causes. Some people use pornography as a means to cope with physical, emotional or sexual abuse they had experienced in their childhood.
Others use pornography to deal with stress, worries, or emotional problems, or just to get a “high” by feeding their sexual fantasies. Pornography and its resultant behaviors could also be an attention seeking behavior or trying to fulfill something they lack emotionally. If this is the case he may need help from a trained professional. An open and non judgmental atmosphere will help your son to open up freely.
Always remember to keep the channel of communication open. If you are a single mother and find it uncomfortable to discuss this with your son, you can take the help of a significant male member of your family whom you trust and your son can relate to. Or as I said earlier, you can approach a counselor who will be neutral person to help you out with this.