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Father’s Day: What’s Your Mindset?

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Celebrating Father’s Day when you are separated or divorced can be laden with layers of meaning. You may want to celebrate your own Father, if he is in your life. If you are a Mother, and their Father is involved in their lives, you likely want to encourage and support their relationship with him. But what if your own relationship with their Dad is complicated? How to manage the maelstrom of feelings, perhaps even strong justifications, for worrying about how the children’s joy will be received?

There are as many factual scenarios that have created your complex feelings as there are Fathers. There are also, however, several common themes that may keep us from acting in line with our core values when emotions are heightened. If we want to support our children’s development and model resiliency, flexibility and the ability to manage their own emotions in difficulty, there are 3 things you can do to make it through this day.

  1. Consider your child’s perspective: They want to honor and love both parents. Your generosity of words and spirit will allow them to know this is not only possible but encouraged. Even if their dad hasn’t been a “perfect” parent or even tolerable ex spouse to you, it’s still their Dad. Remembering that encouraging them to love and honor their father, with boundaries in place if required, doesn’t diminish your importance or their love for you.
  2. Consider the benefits to you: Allowing your children to have more love in their lives helps them and you. You might find you even have a little unexpected free time to spend doing what you might enjoy. Relish it and do something special for you–whether it’s spending time with your own dad or participating in an activity you’ve missed in your own busy life.
  3. Let it Be: If the children’s Father can’t or won’t see them, make sure you’re not the reason for it. If it’s not his custody day, allow it to be. If he chooses not to take the kids or can’t see them for another reason, make sure your children understand it isn’t about them. Saying negative things about their Father can make kids feel bad about themselves and this isn’t their choice. Allow the holiday to unfold with neither too little nor too much “fuss.” Role model for your kids that it is one more day to be celebrated, if possible, and if not, it may be different at another moment in their lives. Teach them to be grateful for what they do have and help them try not to linger on what they don’t. Naturally, if it’s clear the “getting over” this hump is difficult, you can consider they might benefit from therapy.

In sum, allow this Father’s day to unfold in a way that works for you and your children. It’s not necessary to put too much or too little emphasis upon it. Listen for what your kids tell you they need to celebrate their dad, if they can, and allow them your generous spirit to do it. Kids know who is able to show up for them and will remember the ways you made that possible.

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