Today, due to war or divorce, many girls and boys are growing up without a father. Modern methods of raising children state that it is necessary to find an adult man – a coach, grandfather or just a friend – whose personality will become a support for the child. Parenting without a father is a difficult task. A mother needs not to make a mistake in order to raise a happy child. And this is possible when the mother is happy. Children are very sensitive. The psychologist’s advice is not to blame each other in front of the child if the family is divorcing, and not to look for the father on purpose. These are the most common mistakes parents make. How to raise a child without a father? Svitlana Arefnia, PhD in Psychology, answers this and other questions for She also gives advice to parents on how to properly inform a child about a divorce in the family.

  • A single mother with an adopted child or a child conceived through artificial insemination. How to explain to a child that families without a father exist?

    To explain to a child that he or she is fertilised in a tube or born through IVF, you need to approach it from the perspective of sex education. Start with where children come from. 

    But always be guided by the child’s curiosity. You don’t need to initiate this conversation yourself and tell all the details. Questions arise – we answer them.  When a child starts to be interested in sex education, you start to explain. Again, according to age.

    And if the child moves on to the question of how he or she was born if they have no father, then you explain that there is a way for mothers who are unable to have a child to have one – artificial insemination.

    If a child is small and grows up without a father, they will not immediately ask where the father is, because he is not in their worldview. They can only start asking these questions when they go to kindergarten or school. Then he or she will ask: “Where is my father? And how did I appear in the world?” And it is then that you begin to gradually explain. And if the child doesn’t ask about it, then you don’t need to say anything.

  • A child grows up only with his or her mother. Does this affect the formation of the psyche? Who can a mother draw the image of a father from?

    A father is about safety, about psychological boundaries, about authority, about discipline. For a boy, it is also about advice, masculinity, support and an example of masculine behaviour. For a girl, it is always about care, protection, gifts, and something pleasant.  

    However, you don’t need to deliberately look for a father for your child. You don’t need to engage someone to raise them on purpose. It should happen naturally. If you have a boy, you can enrol the boy in sports, where there is a coach who will become an example by himself, because he coaches, he cares, he creates a sense of discipline, he becomes an authority. Then it will happen naturally.

    Or maybe you have a good male friend with whom you have fun. Then take your child for a walk with you, inviting your friend as well. And he will take from this man the features that he will like. 

    But if you start to impose someone on your child, to impose the authority of a man, then it will be violence for the child. He or she may start to withdraw and avoid communicating with certain men in the future. Therefore, this method will only traumatise your child.

  • At the kindergarten, children ask where dad is. Children at school make fun of the fact that a child grows up with only their mother. What is your advice?

    Before a child goes to kindergarten, he or she already has a certain mental picture of the world. A child of 5-6 years old has already begun to notice a world in which there are men, and in his world, for example, there are none. Therefore, when a child goes to kindergarten, it would be good if his or her worldview already had an explanation for why there is no father around. This is what the child will rely on. For example, explain to the child that he or she doesn’t have a father because you have always been together, and the father has never been there. Explain that this happens in life: there are families that have a father and families that don’t, and there is nothing wrong with that. Then the child will not focus on this and will not be emotionally disturbed when asked where his father is. He will calmly say that he doesn’t have one. 

    If you have not prepared your child, hid these facts, said that you don’t need a father or that he has disappeared somewhere, left you, then the child will join your worries and will be similarly offended by the fact that they don’t have a father. And they will react in kindergarten to this kind of bullying. And if the child has been prepared, he or she will not react to it.

  • How to understand that a mother’s chosen one can be a good father for her child?

    It is important not to look for a father for a child, because the key for a happy child is a happy mother. It is important for a woman to start dating a man first, to understand that he is right for her, that she feels happy with him. And then she can gradually start telling her child that she feels happy, that she feels good, that she is in a good mood, so that the child can see that the mother is changing for the better. The main thing is to understand that if a man loves and respects her, he will automatically love her child. And if a man says he loves a woman, but doesn’t love her child, then this means that this relationship is not real and the man doesn’t love this woman.

    If a man treats your child with respect, loves you and loves your child, only then will he be a good stepfather or father for your child.

    There is an opinion that a single mother’s son can grow up to be weak and tender. How to raise a real man without a dad?

    If a mother is raising a boy alone, then indeed, the boy will lack this masculinity that we talk about a lot, i.e. a male role model. If a boy doesn’t see a male role model, he will follow the example of his mother or grandmother. 

    That is why it is important for mothers to give their boys everything they can to help them remain men. To guide him, to say that you respect his masculinity, to tell him how strong and skilful he is. You need to give him a man’s work, for example, to hammer a nail. That is, not to involve him in women’s work, but to give him men’s work. It is also important to respect his psychological boundaries, not to be too affectionate, because excessive tenderness for a boy cultivates more feminine parts in him than masculinity.

    You have to build up his authority. Because he is also the authority in the family. In no case should you stop him from doing anything masculine. In no case should you humiliate it (ed. – authority). Because a little boy humiliated by a woman grows up to be a man with low self-esteem. You need to support him as much as possible, praise him, give him recognition. 

    You can also set an example for the boy of some authoritative man. Or you can ask the boy who is an authority and an example of a man for him. It can be actors from some films, or other heroes.

  • It is believed that a girl’s self-esteem depends on her father’s love. How can you raise a woman with high self-esteem without a father?

    A father is really very important for a woman. He is the first man in a woman’s life with whom she falls in love. It is always an authority, it is always something big and something powerful.

    It is always about protection and always about safety. 

    But you need to understand that it is a woman’s self-esteem that is nurtured and given by a mother. Therefore, if you want to raise your daughter’s self-esteem, you need to go through some stages of separation. 

    When a child is small, up to 3 years old, and starts saying ” I do it myself, I want to do it myself”, the mother replies “I know better” and still maintains her authority. When the girl grows up and in her teens begins to say that her mother doesn’t understand anything and that she knows better, her mother, respecting these words, still says that she knows better.

    But when a girl grows up and she is 18, 19 or 20 years old, it would be good if her mother started losing the competition and told her daughter that her daughter knows better, she is smarter, she is more beautiful. Then the girl will become confident and her self-esteem will grow.