Since returning to the airwaves on the OWN Network with “Oprah’s Lifeclass” and “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” Iyanla Vanzant has been healing relationships and families one show at a time. On a recent broadcast of “Fatherless Sons” she explored the pain and pathology of men who grow up without their fathers as well as what leads those fathers to abandon them in the first place. Last night, the follow-up “Fatherless Sons: The Reaction” covered the passionate response to the original show.
“The reaction was incredible,” Iyanla told The Tom Joyner Morning Show. “For me the good thing is people are saying what can I do? How can I go back and get my children or how do I stop being angry at the father so I can let him in? So people got the message which is about healing.”
Vanzant will next cover “Daddyless Daughters,” on Sunday, July 14 at 9 p.m. on Oprah’s “Lifeclass,” where daughters will talk about the pain of losing or not knowing their dads. But what are the lessons that can be learned from children who are disconnected from absent fathers? Vanzant offers some guidance. If you are a parent who wants to reconnect, Vanzant says, you must take the first step. Even if you are financially unable to do things with your child, basic communication is a start.
“It’s absolutely an epidemic and we’ve seen it go on for so long and we’ve accommodated it and we’ve tolerated it. And now that we’ve seen how our children are so damaged and wounded and hurting, we’re finally saying we need to do something about this. The first thing is fathers need to go back and get their children. They just have to. And the mothers have to stop being angry and let them come back. And the relationship between the rather and the mother needs to be completed. Sometines the relationship broke down and there’s hurt and anger.
And then you drop money in the mix and then you have the hot bed of mess. When the father is not or cannot pay child support [then often] the mother feels overwhelmed or slighted. If you’re breathing, you can call your child, text your child. You’ve got to get back. And particularly to the boys. You’ve got to get fathers and sons back together.”
For fathers unsure how to reclaim a relationship with their children after years of absence, Iyanla says that it’s best to take it slowly. But consistency, she says, is what’s most important.
“You can be gone for nine years an show up with a toy and a check and the kid is going to be willing to accept you. That starts with basic communication. How about a birthday card? How about a text? How about a letter or email? But as someone said last night on the show ‘Let’s not let technology replace the physical contact. And then small things you can do if the children are in school. Find a day to help with homework. Sign up to go on a class trip. Begin to create something that you do consistently. That’s the key. You cannot have children sitting on the porch the stoop, the step, the window waiting for you and you don’t show up. We’ve got to make our children a priority.”
The impact of fatherlessness is felt by different genders in different ways, says Vanzant, who hopes to shed light on the issues of women with the new special on “daddyless daughters.”
“When the father leaves, he takes his son’s self esteem, but when he leaves his daughter, he takes her worth. That’s why so many sleep around looking for that love. What a father teaches his daughter is non-sexual intimacy.”
Vanzant’s new season of “Iyanla, Fix My Life,” begins on July 27th with R&B singer Syleena Johnson, who stars on TV One’s “R&B Divas,” trying to repair her relationship with her own mother. Given all the work she does with people in need of healing, what is the hardest part of her process?
“The bardest thing is getting people to admit their mistakes and not feel guilty and afraid. People do not like to admit they are wrong,” says Vanzant.