Rochelle Floyd came to Percy Julian Middle School’s workshop for single mothers last Thursday for help.

Though she’s married now, for a while she was raising her son by herself while they both lived in Philadelphia.

She moved to Oak Park a year ago and enrolled her son at Julian. He’s 14 years old, but Floyd said her son rarely talks about his feelings. But she said she knows something is wrong. It may have something to do with the relationship with his father.

Thursday’s workshop, sponsored by the District 97 Multicultural Center, was for single mothers raising African-American sons.

Boys to Men: Tips for Single Moms, is part of a series of lectures and workshops hosted by Black Star Project, a non-profit national organization based in Chicago. The Black Star Project runs programs across the country at schools with low-achieving, minority students.

The workshops are part of its Parent University program. The university specifically provides resources to help parents with their children’s lives and education.

The Boys to Men series was the last of three workshops hosted in Dist. 97. The Parent Universities are ongoing this month in Dist. 97 and Chicago schools.

Kelly Williams, an author, former Tampa, Fla. television reporter, and single mother, presented more of a discussion than a lecture Thursday.

The discussion, sometimes funny and other times painful, allows mothers to share their experiences and gain strength from one another, said Williams, who now works for a Chicago advertising agency.

“It’s just good to learn from what others said,” said Williams, who wrote the book “Single Mamahood: Advice and Wisdom for the African-American Single Mother.” “I was able to tell a lot of personal stories of my experiences, and I wrote it in a way where we could learn from each other.”

Williams said many single mothers experience the same issues: absentee fathers, jealousy with the other woman in their ex’s lives and the angry backlash from their sons because their fathers are not there.

Williams said single mothers shouldn’t take it personally. She also advises moms not to speak ill of the father to their sons, even if the father deserves it. It can, she said, cause more of a rift between the mother and the son.

“As soon as you say something negative about their father, they will take it out on you because you because their father is a part of them, and if you’re attacking their father, they see that as an attack on them.”

Williams said it’s also good for mothers to do positive reinforcements with their sons. Asking a son about how his day went and what’s going on with his friends is a better way to start a conversation rather than demanding him to talk specifically about his problems, Williams noted.

Floyd said she’s tried to do that in the past, but ending up drilling her son, which only makes him more distant.

“There are a lot of things that my mom did that I catch myself doing,” said Floyd, who had her son when she was 16. “That was what I saw my mother doing in how she dealt with things. Her thing was, whatever the adult said, that’s what it was. But I find myself sometimes still being my mom, and that makes him angry because he’s like, ‘You’re not listening to me. What about me? What about how I feel?'”

Williams said single moms also face issues dating again after their previous relationship ends. She advises moms to be mindful of their dating practices and how that will impact their children.

Boyfriends staying over or going out too regularly can result in feelings of neglect by their sons.

Single moms need to make a choice: Am I going to be a single mom or am I going to be single?” said Williams. “That’s the price you pay because your kid is going to know they’re being neglected. Your kids are not stupid.”

Williams also recommended getting sons involved in sports. She said being around other boys and older male coaches can help fill the male void in their lives.

For more information about the Parent University programs in Oak Park contact Lynn Allen, Dist. 97’s director of multicultural education, at 524-7700. For more information about The Black Star Project visit www.blackstarproject.org.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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