Whatever the reason for a divorce, Father’s Day for a divorced dad elicits all kinds of feelings and reactions. But these feelings are even tougher for a divorced dad who is a non-custodial dad or one who shares custody with his kids’ mom. Not living with the kids full-time is hard enough, but having to deal with all the issues around Father’s Day just adds insult to injury.
So, depending on your circumstances, this Father’s Day, here are a few tips about surviving and maybe even actually finding some peace and joy this Father’s Day.
Some simple rules can help to calm the chaos and make these days meaningful and stress-free for everyone.
- It should go without saying that on Mother’s Day, children spend time with their mother. And on Father’s Day, children spend time with their father. Of course this only applies when children and parents live within driving distance.
- If parents and children live outside of driving range, it becomes the responsibility of the residential parent to help their young children remember Father’s Day. Initiate a telephone call or web-cam connection or help your kids do this on their own. If your kids are older, a bit of gentle nudging may be in order.
- Help your children make or buy a card and/or gift for the other parent. And if you’re having trouble with this task, remind yourself that you are doing this for your children. You are helping them do something that is going to make them feel good about themselves.
- Take a mental oath to avoid all manner of conflict related to these important holidays. Your children will thank you many times over. Keep them out of the middle. As far as your children are concerned, there is no big deal about spending Father’s Day with dad.
- If possible, allow adequate time for your children and the other parent to celebrate Father’s Day. While an hour or two is better than nothing, it doesn’t offer much in the way of quality interaction time. You might consider generously consenting to an overnight (if it isn’t in the schedule) so that children can enjoy breakfast at a restaurant with dad. (Or serve dad breakfast in bed.
- If Father’s Day doesn’t fall into the appropriate parent’s scheduled parenting time, consider adding it as a bonus day that doesn’t have to be made up. I’m not a big fan of make up days for parenting time. Trying to make up time usually causes headaches and scheduling snafus that only add stress to an already uncomfortable situation.
- Reserve the primary celebration of Father’s Day for your child’s immediate, biological (or adopted) parents. While you may want your children to be considerate and remember grandparents, stepparents or other extended family members on these days, it should not be in place of observing Father’s Day with dad.
- Above all else, enjoy this time with your children. Focus on doing things with them instead of hanging out with adults.
What if You’re Not Going to See Your Child
If you are a parent who will not see your children on Father’s Day, here are some suggestions to help you get through the day
- Make a plan for the day. Find supportive friends and share the day with them.
- Take good care of yourself. This isn’t a day to drown your sorrows in your vice of choice. Get outside, take a walk, make something, read a good book, go for a run, walk your dog etc. You get the idea!
- Call your children rather than waiting for them to contact you. If you don’t have telephone access, write a letter or send a reverse parenting card – Father’s Day send a card that says something to the effect of “having you makes me a parent and that is a very cool thing. On this special day, I’m celebrating you!”
- If you have absolutely no contact with your children, keep a journal and write unsent letters to your kids. There may be a time in the future (note: this means when your children are adults) when you’ll be able to share your entries with them.
- Spend time with your mother or father. No matter how old you are, you are still their child and they will appreciate your time and attention.
If it isn’t possible to spend time with your parent, adopt a surrogate parent (friend, family member, neighbor etc. and celebrate with them.) This is a pay-it-forward kind of thing that will come back to you many times over. There are many, many lonely people in the world who would love your special attention