By Dr. JL Adolph
For most dads, the joy of being a first-time father is exhilarating, often rekindling a long-lost barefoot childhood filled with football, video games, and adventures of hide and seek. But for novice fathers who grew up fatherless, those reels of rug rat pleasures are often interrupted by a gnawing fear. The fear of the unknown. How can I be expected to navigate the roads of fatherhood with a GPS, road map, or a homemade sketch?
Fathers are often left wondering if they will do a good job. Do you have what it takes? You might feel an ice block in the pit of your stomach—heart-racing anxiety that may make some dads want to run. While you cannot wait to smell the sweet scent of your baby boy or daddy’s little girl; no matter how hard you try, you become triggered by unresolved father loss trauma.
The forgotten boy left waiting on the stoop—the lost boy playing catch by himself. The boy learning to tie a bowtie from an uncle, coach, or spiritual father while wishing his biological father would take his rightful place at his doorstep.
Suppose the boy happens to be Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color (BIPOC) in America. In that case, you might be scarred by the ever-sharpened edges of re-publicized myths about the Black absentee or “deadbeat”
African American father. The purpose of this article is not to sensationalize the horrors of soon-to-be fatherless fathers. It is quite the opposite; this article encourages fatherless fathers to heal the boy; raise the child.
Preparation for Fatherhood
The expression, “heal the boy; raise the child,” pleads for fatherless fathers to seek mental healthcare before their children enter the world. As first-time dads, you may be unaware of the devastating impact intergenerational trauma, meaning trauma passed down through generations like family heirlooms, can have on a child.
According to social work expert Edward Kruk in, “Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger,” fatherless children are at increased risk of experiencing the following traumas:
- Diminished self-concept and compromised physical, emotional security
- Behavioral problems
- Truancy and poor academic performance
- Delinquency and youth crime
- Promiscuity and teen pregnancy
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Exploitation and abuse
- Physical health problems
- Mental health disorders
Get Help Before Baby is Born
Given that countless fatherless fathers who endured or overcome these traumas remain silently terrified, they will pass these atrocities consciously or unconsciously to their infants. Hence, these dads must get the help they need before they hold their bundles of joy.
A good therapist may help new fathers to learn the trauma they underwent was not their fault, but it is their responsibility. Without question, fatherless fathers with a good emotional support team will develop the skills necessary to heal from the trauma of father loss. Through mental healthcare, fatherless fathers can break generational curses by learning to love themselves and embracing their vulnerabilities. Dads with this brand of emotional intelligence can give their children a map they never received.
If you are a first-time fatherless father, please get the support you need by looking up fatherhood experts on websites like Psychologytoday.com, Perinatalpotpurri.com, Postpartum.net, and www.mentoheal.com.
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By Dr JL Adolph is an associate professor of English at Georgia State University, Perimeter College, who focuses on fatherhood in Hip-hop and culture. Also, he is the lead vlogger of a DadCypher: A Hip-hop Guide to Fatherhood, a YouTube channel that discusses fatherhood.