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With June 20th right around the corner, it’s time to think about Father’s Day!
Father’s Day is a day to celebrate and honor those who have embraced the role of fatherhood or the role of being a dad. It is a day to thank all the dads, fathers, and father figures for their commitment to raising and nurturing children.
What is a DAD? A dad is a Dependable Adult whose key responsibility is to help their children Develop into respectable community members.
What is a FATHER? A father is a parent Figure who Advocates for their children, provides a sense of Togetherness, strives for childhood Happiness, and Empowers their children to be Responsible community members.
What is a father figure? Anyone can be a father figure! It could be a mom, grandparent, coach, friend’s parent, teacher, mentor, older sibling, cousin or family member. Father figures may be related or not.
Father’s Day is about honoring all these people!
Over the past year, while we all lived through the pandemic, some dads and fathers have really struggled. For various reasons, they haven’t seen their children, and they are hurting. Every month in our Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families, we heard from a dad, “I haven’t seen my children in months” — with the most recent comment being, “I haven’t seen my children in 15 months, and they tell me that I am toxic and bad and that they do not want to see me.” How is it possible that an 8-year-old child would refer to their parent as “toxic”? This is not a word we hear often. It is not a common social media word. It is not a word taught in school.
One of the saddest aspects of divorce is when one parent says so many negative things about their “ex-spouse” that the children begin to take on their parent’s words as their own. Parents say, “I don’t ever say negative things about my child’s other parent in front of my children,” but they forget that children hear and see everything. When you are on the phone talking about your divorce, even when your children are in another room or actively engaged in an activity, they stop and listen. They hear everything!
The reality is, when you are divorced, your relationship with your “ex-spouse” is no longer necessary.
Think about this: When you are “ex-spouses,” you are still engaging in an emotional relationship. If your immediate response is “No, I’m not!” — then maybe you are still emotionally involved.
Being in an emotional relationship with your child’s other parent is common, but unnecessary. After all, if you wanted the emotional relationship, you could have remained married. On this Father’s Day, it is time to let it go! Focus on healing yourself and on moving on. Try this:
Instead of referring to your child’s other parent as your “ex-spouse,” refer to them as your “co-parent.” Now all communication with this other person is about your sharing the role of parent. Nothing less and nothing more. Is it that simple? Yes. Is it easy? No way!
So how do you transition into this new mentality? Yes, divorce is a transition. Not only for your children, but for you, too! This transition may include: leaving or selling a house you may love, leaving behind a neighborhood of friends, losing friends because they were your co-parent’s friends, losing family traditions because you can’t go to your co-parent’s house anymore for holidays, moving into a smaller place, losing half of your income to child support or spousal support — and let’s not forget the misery you may feel because your children are living with their other parent half the time.
Transition is real. Transition can be painful. Transition may be sad. Transition can be a time of healing, a time of freedom and a time of change. Transition leads to a new normal. Transition leads to stability. Transition becomes a place of acceptance and a place of happiness.
Whether you are a mom or a dad, Father’s Day is a time for you to step into a place of personal healing. How? Help your children make Father’s Day cards or gifts. Encourage them to be creative and to celebrate their other parent. Paint rocks, color pictures, help your child write a song or poem.
Father’s Day is not about spending money on gifts. It is not about control. It should never be something one parent can manipulate or make their children feel bad about.
Father’s Day is about recognizing the other person who helped make your beautiful children. If for no other reason than that, Father’s Day is a day to teach your children to recognize and celebrate their other parent.
As we transition out of the pandemic and into our new normal, I encourage you to make it this kind of a day. Your children have two parents, and you both deserve to be celebrated — so CELEBRATE!