Families have changed over the years. Wherever you live, however old you are, you may know a family that’s living in a situation that’s slightly different to so-called ‘usual’ circumstances.
We’re often reminded about this. With so much peer pressure around these days, it may be useful to know how you can help youngsters ‘without Dad’ to cope with (a very commercial) Father’s Day that’s now on the horizon…
“We just don’t celebrate Father’s Day…”
Some families take the view there’s no need to make a fuss about Father’s Day. It’s that simple. For whatever reason – whether it’s a family that’s recently broken down or perhaps a father has sadly passed away; maybe it’s for religious reasons, or perhaps the youngsters have two Mums instead – some people prefer to treat June 21st as ‘just another day in the calendar’.
If the family you know has made their wishes clear, it’s hard to put a foot wrong as long as you go with the flow. And if you’re not sure, there aren’t many people who’d mind if you tactfully asked a question.
“Daddy doesn’t live with us anymore…”
Some family divisions are entirely amicable. In that case, it’s an opportunity for family and friends to celebrate those happy circumstances. And if everything’s relatively ‘easy’, then perhaps the most appropriate support you can give to youngsters is a helping hand in making a Father’s Day card. Or perhaps helping Mum out by chipping in a few pennies to buy a token gift. However, if the split was acrimonious, then things can be a bit tricky.
While children’s feelings, emotions and welfare should always be a priority, things don’t turn out that way every time. Be sensitive when you’re talking about Dad in front of Mum. And vice versa, for that matter.
If the children involved are very young, it may be more than enough to simply remind them they can say ‘Happy Father’s Day’ when they see or speak to their Dad. If they’re teenagers, you may like to offer an opportunity to choose a Father’s Day card quite discreetly. And if they’re in primary school, many youngsters enjoy making cards – there’s nothing wrong with making a ‘Mum I Love You’ card in June (or for that matter a ‘Dad You’re Amazing’ card in March, when it’s Mother’s Day).
“My Daddy died…”
There’s a lot of divided opinion about how to acknowledge Father’s Day if the passing was recent. For some families it’s a very natural moment in time to share fond memories and perhaps a few feelings of grief. For others, it’s a joy to be happy and still celebrate the life of someone who’s not here anymore.
If you’re close to young children, the sensible option is to find out how they’re coping in general from Mum (or another member of the family), and take your cue from those details. The best course of action may be not to mention Father’s Day at all, or even to gently ‘mock’ the fact that other children ‘remember’ their Dads only once a year – “but we think about Daddy all the time!”
However, if the children are older, then this can be a time for acknowledging that maturity. Open a gentle conversation (be prepared for it to be short or long) and support them as they articulate their feelings.
“We have two Mums, we don’t have a Dad.”
It may be through fostering, adoption, surrogacy, co-parenting or perhaps having had children from a previous relationship – but for our part, there’s no controversy at all about having two Mums in a family. Or two Dads. Sometimes though, normality can be eroded by people whose perceptions are biased.
The truth is, a family that’s well-prepared and used to defining their circumstances on every other day of the year will have their own plan for Father’s Day, and how they want to mark the occasion (or not, as the case may be). Where they’re aware of a family with two mums, or Dad and Daddy being their children’s parents, many schools respond by letting children make a card for any relative or role model.