People who are single parents, or who are in a same sex relationship have probably already considered the importance of having opposite sex role models for their children. By opposite sex, what is meant here is the gender opposite to the parent. It cannot be stated firmly enough that a single mother or father, or a same sex couple, can do a wonderful job raising a child. Yet from most research, having opposite sex role models can be important too, for children of either gender. This can give children the experience of understanding that both women and men are important, and may help enhance and increase their self esteem and their knowledge of the world.
Yet some parents may be stumped by trying to find good opposite sex role models, especially if they have very busy lives consumed by work and parenting. There are some good places to look, that don’t necessarily involve having to do much research. First, look to your school. If you’re a single mom, and you have a choice, it might be worthwhile to place your child in a class with a male teacher, or a single dad might look to a female teacher. Teachers can clearly make a wonderful impact on children’s lives, though it may sometimes be difficult for a teacher to give enough individual time to a student in need of opposite sex role models. Some schools have programs where teachers take time out to mentor individual students, and it’s worth investigating if your school has such a program.
Another place to look is to other family members. You may have a wonderful brother or sister who provides the ideal role model, an uncle or aunt who fits the bill, or a parent or grandparent who can devote some special time to your child. If you are a single parent, don’t forget to look, if possible, at the absent parent’s family as potential sources for opposite sex role models. Even if a marriage or partnership has not ended well or never really got started, grandparents on both sides often want to see their grandchildren, and may be more than willing to step in and give additional attention to a child who may lack opposite gender or same gender role models.
There are also organizations that may help you find opposite sex role models. Some of these may be specific to the gender of your child. Occasionally, organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters assign a child to a Big Sister or Brother of the same gender. This is not always the case, and these types of peer mentoring programs can offer a great means by which children find a good opposite gender role model. You may even be able to have a Big Brother or Big Sister assigned based on your need to provide a person of the gender opposite to you.
Other mentoring programs, tutors, friends you know, church groups, or even workmates may help provide these great role models for kids. You should check into backgrounds of people you don’t know well who provide this type of mentoring, and it’s also a good idea to ask the person if they could be something of a “gender” model for your child. It might take a little time and effort on their behalf, and this is something you should consider. The stability of the person is another thing to take into account because children can and do become attached to others who take a semi-parental role in their lives.