Friday, April 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Fathers

We all know that divorce isn’t pretty and that the kids often bear the brunt of the drama, so let’s focus on the positive instead. Father’s Day is all about spending quality time with Dad, but divorce can throw a big monkey wrench into any plans for family bonding. Deciding how to spend Father’s Day, especially if Mom has remarried, can open up a difficult can of worms. Don’t lose heart; making Father’s Day a positive celebration for Dad and the kids is possible, it just takes a little finesse.

How pre-planning makes everything easier
One rule that we can’t stress enough is never to make Father’s Day a battle that involves your kids. If the kids have a strong, active relationship with Dad they’ll probably want to spend the big day with him. Talk with your ex well in advance of the holiday and decide on a plan that works for both of you. Even if Dad isn’t scheduled to have the kids on the Father’s Day weekend, it might be better for everyone to ignore the schedule this time and let the kids spend the holiday with him. Just be sure you also plan how the visitation schedule will resume after the holiday to avoid any confusion.

Mom’s new man
If Mom has remarried or Dad isn’t an active part of the kids’ lives, neither parent should pressure the kids to choose between Dad and their step-father. Although Father’s Day is supposed to be all about Dad, in the case of divorced families it’s more important that the kids’ feel comfortable and happy with the arrangements.

Pushing the kids to embrace their relationship with their step-father is a dangerous move. The more you try to direct children towards a certain path, the harder they’ll veer away. Mom can ask the kids if they’d like to do something for their step-father on Father’s Day, but if they seem hesitant or say no, leave it at that. Mom and her new husband should talk about the holiday in advance too. Make sure he’s prepared and doesn’t take it personally if the kids aren’t ready to embrace him as “Dad” on Father’s Day. Remember to keep your kids’ age range in perspective. Adolescents and teens are often more rebellious than their younger siblings and may be more vocal about their opinions. That said, don’t sacrifice your family’s rules of respect and acceptance during this tumultuous time.

The Disappearing Dad
In some cases, Dad just isn’t involved in the kids’ lives. If it looks like Dad won’t be around on Father’s Day, plan activities to help the kids cope. Make sure they understand that even though Dad’s not there, he still loves them. You don’t have to lie, but don’t berate him in front of the kids either. If they ask where Dad is or why they aren’t spending the holiday together, keep it simple and explain that Dad wasn’t able to make it. Ask if they’d like to write him a letter or send him a card to let him know they’re thinking of him, make sure they have the freedom to do so.

After a divorce, it’s normal for the family dynamic to be shaken up for awhile. But don’t lose hope! With time, your family will adjust and sort itself out. Be patient with the kids, your ex and with yourself and you’ll be one step closer to a happy Father’s Day for everyone.

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