Father’s Day is fast approaching. You and your children may still be getting used to the reality of two parents, two homes – and holidays shine a spotlight on all the changes that have happened since the separation or divorce. If your children will be spending this Father’s Day without Dad, they will be acutely aware that something is missing from their lives. Of course, this does have a lot to do with the ages of your children.
One particular year, we went to church on Father’s Day and, of course, the fathers were appreciated and honored during the service. My son and daughter went very quiet. My daughter turned and buried her head into my side as she cried. I held her tight. Tears were in my eyes too and I had no words. My children were supposed to be with their father today, but at the last minute, the plans fell through. It wasn’t about blame. It was about my children’s sadness and disappointment that they couldn’t be with their dad. Simply put, no matter how much I loved them, no matter how much they knew I loved them, and in spite of me trying to comfort them, guess what – I am mum, not dad. On Father’s Day, that makes a big difference.
How do you deal with that?
Tips for Coping with Father’s Day Without Dad
Tip 1: Accept that you Can’t Fix your Kids Sadness Today
I had to stop, focus, and accept that truth in practical terms: I am Mum, not Dad. This meant that on Father’s Day nothing I did would be good enough to make up for my children not being with their father.
Tip 2: Be Objective
Having accepted that my children would be disappointed on Father’s Day, thinking objectively about the situation eased my pain and feeling of being rejected by them. This was not about me being a good mum or not, it was about how they were feeling – disappointed, sad, incomplete, as a family etc. The way your children are acting and feeling is not about you: it’s about missing their father. So unless you are actively blocking a relationship between the kids and their father, you are blameless
Tip 3. Shift Your Focus Outward
When you can be objective about this situation, you won’t spiral downwards because you’re feeling hurt. That hurt could even turn to anger if you start thinking along the lines of: “Who do those kids think they are: rejecting me after all I’ve done and sacrificed for them!” Instead, you can shift your focus from how you’re feeling (inward focus) to your children (outward focus), ensuring that they get through Father’s Day without Dad in the best way possible.
Depending on their age, you can ask them what they would like to do on this day. Expect the answer “I want to be with dad!” They know it’s impossible, but they need to release their disappointment. Gently reply: “I know you do, and I’m sorry that it’s not possible. Even though you can’t be with your dad, we could still have do something fun. What would you like to do today ?”
If they can’t be with their dad, they may want to talk, Skype, or Facetime with him. You may or may not be able to arrange this depending on your circumstances.
They may want to spend more time with you so they don’t feel alone. They may just say “nothing” and that’s fine, too. Let them know that it’s fine; after 30 minutes or so they may change their mind. They need the time to release their disappointment. Conversely, they may not change their mind – and this too is fine, as long as they know you are there for them.
Tip 4: Do Something Special Anyway!
You are not trying to take the place of their dad. You are not trying to suppress your or your children’s feelings only for them to explode later like a volcano. No, this is a simple gesture for your children to be able to acknowledge that it is father’s day without having to worry about your feelings. Don’t get me wrong: you may not want to acknowledge their father right now, but it is Father’s Day not Husband’s Day and your children may want to share that with you.
For us, Sunday dinner is always more special than weekday dinners. So, on the Father’s Days when my children were not able to see their dad, I would do something different: visit family or a family friend my kids liked, have a different dessert, or a different meal to our usual Sunday dinner. It wasn’t something excessive – just something to acknowledge that it was a special day, in spite of its disappointments.
Tip 1. (Rephrased) Accept that Your Kids will be Sad on a Father’s Day without Dad
I am repeating this tip because when dealing with emotions on sensitive days like this, we need to be reminded of some things over and over and over again. Keep being that great mum, but, for today, for Father’s Day, please accept that the special cake, treat, or trip to the movies may not be enough to ease your children’s disappointments. Accept that. It’s not because you have failed: it’s simply because it is Father’s Day – and no matter how wonderful you are, you are not their father.
Marjorielyn Gray is a Relationship and Life Coach as well as author, speaker, ordained Christian minister, and mother. She has experienced separation, divorce, single parenthood, and successful remarriage. Marjorielyn coaches men and women to overcome divorce and other relationship issues. Her goal is clear and simple: to share key strategies to overcome the trauma of divorce so others can live their best life after divorce. www.marjorielyngray.com