How to make it through a difficult Father’s Day
Father's Day is fast approaching. Normally, the day is one of celebration to tell Dad how much he means and for fathers to get the appreciation they deserve. And for those who can do this, I hope it's a great day.
But for some families, Father's Day (or even Mother's Day) can be tricky.
This is particularly true for those who live far away from their Dad, children who don't have the benefit of a father in their lives through loss or abandonment, or those who have tricky relationships with their fathers.
This year produces even more challenges. With state borders closed and quarantine regulations, some children haven't seen one of their parents since the January holidays.
This is sure to be very difficult for everyone in the family.
Here're some suggestions for getting through the day well.
For those away from their fathers
It's essential that you create an event that makes you feel close, even though you are in different places. Ideally schedule a video call, so you are sure you're both free for it.
Ideally make it around a meal where you can eat together and catch up properly.
You could even use a food delivery service to order Dad a special meal - given you can't cook him one and deliver it to him in bed. (He may enjoy a better quality meal!)
Some dads are often not known for their ability to keep a conversation going when not in person. Instead, use the opportunity to find out more about him.
Parents can help children come up with questions on topics such as what he was like as a child, his favourite pet, best holiday, favourite toy, greatest achievement at school, and a day where he was brave.
Recording these conversations will be excellent reminders of their Dad's life, in years to come.
For those who have lost their fathers
The day is often very tricky for families whose parent has passed away or whose fathers are not in their life. It's not just challenging on the day. In the week prior, many day-cares and schools organise card or gift making for fathers in class time, have a Father's Day stall, or have events such as Dads and Sons/Daughters breakfasts in the week prior.
I am not saying schools are insensitive in this. Single parents would know that often without them, they often don't get a gift at all.
But if these events are somewhat triggering for the child, it can be a challenge.
In this time of COVID-19, this year is likely one when schools are doing fewer of these types of events.
Regardless, it's essential for the child's parent to anticipate these occurrences and do as much as they can to not make them tough.
For example, tell your child that they can pick up a gift for Grandad or an uncle at the stall, or bring a male family member to the event.
They could even get a gift for their Mum - despite how humorously gendered some of the offerings can be.
Speak to the school about your concerns about any event. It might prompt them to think of a solution that doesn't expose your child as much or comes up with a good alternative.
Unfortunately, you can't protect them from everything, and, over time, it's essential that your child starts to accept that they don't have a father (or mother) in their lives.
You can never predict when a question is going to come up, and they will feel much more capable if they can say the truth clearly, and without unnecessary shame or overwhelming sadness. That will make them much more capable to cope with whatever questions or events come their way.
Here's some ideas to get through the day, if it's a challenging time
● Don't let anyone sit with sad feelings for too long - or they'll feel worse.
● Create a new ritual for the day. Go to a favourite park, take a trip to see the whales, stick a mattress in the living room and watch a few favourite comedies, musicals or Marvel movies.
● Arrange a video phone call with another supportive family member, such as an uncle or grandparent.
● Make it a day of growth and creating. Plant some seedlings to look forward to new buds forming, cook up a storm, reorganise a room, or do something creative artistically.
Originally published as How to make it through a difficult Father's Day