When you become a parent, your entire world changes. Or maybe I should say, shifts. Gone are the days you can be totally engrossed in only yourself. As a parent, you must focus on an entirely new being in your life, your child. But what happens to the child if the parent is unable to do that? It depends on many different factors. Is there another person in the child’s life who can step into the breach and pick up the slack?

My four children were extremely lucky that their father was able to do this. Not all fathers can. I often say to people that my husband was a wonderful father AND mother to my children. He has gifts and skills that he could bestow on our children that I just did not possess. I was a mostly emotionally absent mother and I have worried about the effect this had on my own daughter because I know that the same sex parent is an extremely important role model in a child’s life. Why is that? Well, let’s explore this a little bit.

Even though it is extremely important for a child to grow up with both parents as part of the family unit, the same sex parent has the primary importance in the child’s development.

The same sex parent is a powerful role model

The same sex parent serves as a powerful role model for the child. The child learns many behaviors from this parent and if the parent is himself or herself inherently unhealthy and engages in unhealthy behaviors then chances are very high that the child will as well because most behavior patterns are learned.

Children’s personalities are largely defined and formed by the time they are about five years old. This is why the early years in a child’s life are so very important. The child will learn things from its parents manner of speaking — something as simple as the intonation the parent uses when talking to the child will have a great effect. They also learn their values from their parent. The same sex parent teaches the child whether or not they are special, something which is very important in fostering good self-esteem.

Understanding why this is the case

It s imperative that this parent has a strong, positive presence in the child’s life. A child’s personality has largely been solidified by the age of 5. The early years are very critical because the child is looking to the same-sex parent and modeling him/her. The child picks up voice intonation, as well as whether the parent really values time together. Whether the child feels special or not comes from both parents but especially the same-sex parent.

The same sex parent also teaches their child about making choices. So, if the parent consistently makes poor choices, again, the chances are extremely high that the child will learn to do this as well. Life is all about making choices. We each make hundreds of choices every single day. If you grew up with a parent who didn’t teach you how to do this, then life will be very challenging for you.

An old adage but so very true: children learn what they live

Children learn what they live and they mirror the behaviors they are exposed to. If the parents are frustrated or angry or deal with their stress poorly, the child will also tend to do that as well because they will internalize the negative responses to different stimuli. They will tend to reflect these experiences in their own behaviors as they go through life.

You learn how to express anger from your same sex parent

My adoptive mother was a wonderful mother but she did not deal with or express her anger well at all. In fact, she was quite passive-aggressive. I avoided that kind of behavior but instead went the other way and became quite angry with a lot of expressive anger toward people in my life. My mother was also a binge-eater. While I did not develop that particular way of relating to food, I did learn to seek comfort from food and that is why by the time my 28th wedding anniversary rolled around, I had gained almost 100 pounds from when I first married my husband. My mom also had very poor communication skills and I had to really work hard to learn my good communication skills, which really took years to learn.