When you are first issued your divorce decree, it might not hit you how uncomfortable Father’s Day can be the first year after your divorce.
The major holidays are significantly more complicated after divorce and require careful planning to avoid conflict and hurt feelings. Father’s Day can be especially tough since this day in particular is supposed to be all about you.
Here are some tips to guide you through your first Father’s Day after divorce.
Talk to your ex
Ideally, your parenting time will fall on Father’s Day and you will be free to celebrate however you please. Sometimes, this is not the case and other arrangements must be made in order to accommodate any festivities you have planned.
She might be the last person you want to talk to, but it is worth reaching out to your ex to work out a plan. If Father’s Day does not fall on your scheduled weekend, ask her if you can work out a compromise. Offer to let her have the kids an extra weekend, so you can have them for the holiday.
It will help your case tremendously if you were cooperative on Mother’s Day. As with all aspects of co-parenting, working out holiday custody arrangements requires clear communication and flexibility.
If, for whatever reason, your ex tries to withhold parenting time from you on Father’s Day, you should get in touch with your family law attorney immediately.
Be honest with your children
Previous Father’s Day celebrations were probably whole-family affairs. Adjusting to a more low-key holiday is going to be different for your kids as well, so be aware that they also might be dealing with some difficult emotions.
Acknowledge that Father’s Day feels a little different this year and let them know that it is OK to feel sad. You can admit that you are feeling a little down about things too. Make sure you reinforce that even though things are different, you and your kids still love each other.
Help them out with gifts
In years past, your wife probably helped the kids pick out a gift for you for Father’s Day. Depending on their age, your children might not know what to do now that Mom is not around to help out. This could be a source of anxiety for them if they are worried about you being disappointed on Father’s Day.
You might consider enlisting the help of a relative or close friend to help them figure out a gift idea. You can even supply them the money to pay for it. This is not about making sure you get a Father’s Day present but rather ensuring that you and your children are able to happily enjoy the day together.
Celebrate on a different day
The worst-case scenario is that you have to spend Father’s Day separated from your kids. In that case, just celebrate Father’s Day on a different weekend.
Just because you are celebrating on a day that is not designated as “Father’s Day” should not make the day any less special. The holiday is about acknowledging the special bond fathers have with their children, and that is something you should be able to celebrate on any day.
Take everything in stride
The most important thing to do on your first Father’s Day after divorce is to take everything in stride.
Keep in mind that the sad emotions you are feeling are entirely normal. It is OK to feel that way.
“It’s normal for a dad to be experiencing some sadness, some anger, some feelings of loss and just the sense that this isn’t what I wanted to have with my child,” said author, speaker, and teacher Laura Petherbridge. “Just knowing that those emotions are normal and that he’s not losing his mind or weird or something because he’s experiencing that is three-fourths the battle.”
Even if the day is a bummer, remember that it is just one day on the calendar. Even if you do not get the ideal Father’s Day celebration, the role you are playing in the lives of your children is crucial. Nothing can change that.