Editor's note: This article was originally published on Regina Sayles' blog, The Solo Mama. It has been republished here with permission.

I gave birth to a son in my early 20s and also became a single mom soon thereafter. Looking back, I've realized that the gravity of our reality had not weighed in on me in those early years. During that time, my son was at a more impressionable age and had not truly discovered for himself what it meant to exist as a boy in this world. Those were the "easy" years as a single mom.

The reality is, as boys grow and mature it is quite natural for them to seek out male role models to aspire to and as single moms we should embrace that need and offer support as best we can.

It is also important to understand that as single moms we are already invaluable to our sons' lives without the need to fill shoes we were not designed to fill. Here are some of the ways I've been able to support my son's growth and development without attempting to wear the hat of also being a father figure in his life:

1. Expose him to men who are committed to excellence and exhibit great character

Examples could be an influential teacher or a trusted family member that is willing to impart wisdom and guidance. Whether the biological father is present or not, having positive role models will help to shape character in a child.

2. If the relationship with his father is nonexistent or unhealthy,

allow space for the son to ask questions and talk until he fully understands that he is not to blame. Kids sometimes blame themselves for parents splitting which can affect their self-esteem.

3. Tune out negative statements from critics who make it a point to tell you that you can never teach your son how to be a man. Although this may in some way be true, as single moms the last thing we want to hear is what we can't do. Staying focused on being a devoted mom is what's most important. Refer back to tip #1.

4. Allow your home to be a safe haven

In today's world with cyber-bulling, over-obsession with social media and texting, it is important that a young male has a place where he can fully be himself and be surrounded by the comfort of home and family. A feeling of security at home, I've found, has helped to build my son's confidence levels when faced with challenges outside the home.

5. Lastly but certainly not least, be sure to remind your son daily that he is loved

There is nothing wimpy about a young man who understands what love looks like and as mothers we should take pride in our ability to teach our young men how to love.

Although we are not a perfect family, I've found that incorporating these things have helped to shape my son's character into a respectable and likable little guy. For that I am most grateful.

What tips do you have for raising boys as a single mother?

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