Celebrating Mothers Day and Fathers Day

Mothers Day and Fathers Day are likely to be two of the most emotional days of the calendar for divorced parents. Sadly, sometimes divorced parents find themselves in a battle for time with their children on Mothers or Fathers Day. I hope this isn't happening for you. Thanks to the media and greeting card companies, these two days are loaded with feelings and symbolism. Not having your kids with you on Mothers Day or Fathers Day heightens feelings of loss, shame, guilt and sadness that frequently accompany divorce for adults.

Instead of turning Mothers Day or Fathers Day into a power struggle, battlefield, or statement about who is the better parent, think about your children and what behavior will help them have the best experience - a Mothers Day or Fathers Day to remember. For nearly all kids, that means not having to choose between parents. No hassle, no fuss, no pressure - just time to celebrate and spend time with mom or dad.

Some simple rules can help to calm the chaos and make these days meaningful and stress-free for everyone.

  • It should go without saying that on Mothers Day, children spend time with their mother. And on Fathers Day, children spend time with their father. Of course this only applies when children and parents live within driving distance.

  • If parents and children live outside of driving range, it becomes the responsibility of the residential parent to help their young children remember Mothers Day or Fathers Day. Initiate a telephone call or web-cam connection or help your kids do this on their own. If your kids are older, a bit of gentle nudging may be in order.

  • Help your children make or buy a card and/or gift for the other parent. And if you're having trouble with this task, remind yourself that you are doing this for your children. You are helping them do something that is going to make them feel good about themselves.

  • Take a mental oath to avoid all manner of conflict related to these important holidays. Your children will thank you many times over. Keep them out of the middle. As far as your children are concerned, there is no big deal about spending Mothers Day with mom and Fathers Day with dad.

  • If possible, allow adequate time for your children and the other parent to celebrate Mothers Day or Fathers Day. While an hour or two is better than nothing, it doesn't offer much in the way of quality interaction time. You might consider generously consenting to an overnight (if it isn't in the schedule) so that children can serve mom breakfast in bed or enjoy breakfast at a restaurant with dad. (Or serve dad breakfast in bed and enjoy breakfast at a restaurant with mom!) Or you might extend the hour for the transition to accommodate plans that the other parent may have to celebrate Mothers or Fathers Day. Where I live in Colorado, going on a hike, having a picnic or going fishing are all popular Mothers Day or Fathers Day events.

  • If Mothers Day or Fathers Day doesn't fall into the appropriate parent's scheduled parenting time, consider adding it as a bonus day that doesn't have to be made up. I'm not a big fan of make up days for parenting time. Trying to make up time usually causes headaches and scheduling snafus that only add stress to an already uncomfortable situation.

  • Reserve the primary celebration of Mothers Day and Fathers Day for your child's immediate, biological (or adopted) parents. While you may want your children to be considerate and remember grandparents, stepparents or other extended family members on these days, it should not be in place of observing Mothers Day with mom and Fathers Day with dad.

  • Above all else, enjoy this time with your children. Focus on doing things with them instead of hanging out with adults.

What if You're Not Going to See Your Child?

If you are a parent who will not see your children on Mothers or Fathers Day, here are some suggestions to help you get through the day.

  • Make a plan for the day. Find supportive friends and share the day with them.

  • Take good care of yourself. This isn't a day to drown your sorrows in your vice of choice. Get outside, take a walk, make something, read a good book, go for a run, walk your dog etc. You get the idea!

  • Call your children rather than waiting for them to contact you. If you don't have telephone access, write a letter or send a reverse parenting card - on Mothers/Fathers Day send a card that says something to the effect of "having you makes me a parent and that is a very cool thing. On this special day, I'm celebrating you!"

  • If you have absolutely no contact with your children, keep a journal and write unsent letters to your kids. There may be a time in the future (note: this means when your children are adults) when you'll be able to share your entries with them.

  • Spend time with your mother or father. No matter how old you are, you are still their child and they will appreciate your time and attention.

  • If it isn't possible to spend time with your parent, adopt a surrogate parent (friend, family member, neighbor etc. and celebrate with them.) This is a pay-it-forward kind of thing that will come back to you many times over. There are many, many lonely people in the world who would love your special attention.

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