Holidays or special days have a way of highlighting what one does NOT have, sometimes more than what we actually DO have. So, how do we re-calibrate and transition into Fathers day as a separated/divorced male?
Some are luckier than others where separation is an acrimonious one and is less dramatic, but a lot of us at least at the beginning of separation may experience tense situations as the days gets closer to Fathers day. Some experience the following with their exes (male/female): manipulation, parental alienation, mind games and control games (to name a few). These situations make special days tense and unsettling for kids.
Here are some suggested approaches others have tried:
1. Negotiate terms for Fathers day with your ex BEFORE the day
This may already be documented formally or be a agreement verbally between you and your ex. Ensuring the details are agreed prior to the actual day/weekend, will alleviate any conflict or situations where the kids are exposed to potentially uneasy outbursts.
2. Put the kids FIRST
If you had traditions before you separated, then consider maintaining some of them and then also creating NEW ones.
Young kids – you may have relied on your ex to help them prepare breakfast but the new world may mean cooking together or preparing a picnic together.
Older kids – consider suggesting that they cook for you with your supervision (of-course!), or perhaps a family activity such as a bike ride.
Anthony, a divorced father of 3 girls (9, 15, 18) suggests that the challenge for him was catering for age appropriate activities that appealed to varying ages. Compromises had to be made and meant that a family daytime activity was dedicated specific to the younger 2 children (ice skating), and the evening was more specific for the eldest (a movie in gold class/dinner).
Presents!? If you don’t have the option for your ex or someone else to take the kids shopping for a present, then get together on the day and MAKE one together..yes! Consider purchasing metallic paint and create imprints of hands and feet on paper. This is fun and satisfying for the kids and you end up with a keepsake that can be framed!
3. Focus on what you CAN do
If you have situation which is highly dramatic/volatile due to a difficult ex, then focus on how and when you CAN spend it with your kids. The situation may not allow you to spend time with the children on the actual day. However, you can prepare them and focus their efforts for a day that you do have them. Setting expectations and preparing the kids may help diffuse the disappointment on the day if you cannot be together.
This will make the day a little more positive and eradicate the control of your ex, if that is the situation you are in.
4. Maximize the time if it limited
Consider eliminating ALL mobile devices and spending the quality time doing an activity or game together. This doesn’t mean that extensive amounts of cash needs to be disposed, however a simple football match, picnic in the park, and bowling are all activities that are relatively cheap and does wonders for everyone’s vibe! Anthony suggests that this approach shouldn’t be limited to just Fathers day but should be an approach used whenever possible!
5. HYPE it up!!! (Yes, Maybe?!?)
Anthony suggests, that “the first few fathers days as a single dad may take some getting used to”. Consider involving others in your day, this may include Grand parents, close friends with kids, and extended family that can also help celebrate the day together. This diffuses the change and may help with the transition from the old way of life to the new.
Finally, Mr + Ms Ex: remember that the time prior to these “special” days are a FRENZY within the retail world and the excitement that kids may experience at school with friends will not allow your kids to forget when the day is nearing. So, consider your children’s feelings prior to allowing the potentially bad emotions that may go along with negotiating the day with your ex. Children maybe left feeling sad and disappointed, that they could not be like “most” of the other kids they know spending time with their own father.
Perhaps, do the best you can to ensure that their needs are considered no matter how hard it can get “dealing” with a Mr or Ms Ex. Enjoy your day and making memories for ALL.
Happy Fathers Day!
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