Father’s Day– one of those beautiful days of the year when we get to celebrate the great Dad’s in our lives, but a day that can also be loaded with so much emotion when those Dad’s are not in your life in the way you had hoped.
The trials and tribulations of separated parenting are often the hardest on a few key days during the year- Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and of course birthdays. These are those special days were we as a society celebrate family, life and love but when your relationships are strained, separation was recent or you just can’t find the co-parenting rhythm, these sorts of days can fast become a big and emotional mess.
This week I am introducing my friend, Dan Bottrell- a fellow family lawyer from the Gold Coast who is my newest ‘guest blogger’!
Dan runs his own blog which you can find here and is often writing, like me, about all things Family Law. This week I have been head down, podcasting away and he kindly offered to write me a piece on a few tips for managing Father’s Day. Now I know that days like today are different for us all and there may be good reason why celebrating Father’s Day is the last thing from your mind, but I like to think that despite the challenges life wants to throw our way, we can always find a few great Dad’s (and Mum’s) to celebrate on these special days.
So here you have it, Dan’s 6 tips for navigating Father’s Day-
As parents we pay a daily price – putting our needs and wishes lower in the hierarchy of priorities, so that our children are always experiencing the best. For some separated families, Father’s Day can be one of those occasions. Though your former partner may be the very last person you wish to celebrate as a parent, allowing your children to feel free to do so is one of those things that they will thank you for as adults.
While Father’s Day can be tricky, here are a few ideas to help you through that first weekend in September:-
Research tells us that children who know, and have a relationship with, both of their parents, generally ‘do better’ in life. Encouraging your children to have a relationship with their Dad and their Mum will of course be essential and so, when it comes to Father’s Day- let your kids know that they can see and enjoy their relationship with their Dad;
Reaching out to your co-parent, and fixing arrangements for the day, well in advance, can relieve a lot of stress for everyone. I appreciate this can sometimes be easier said than done! Our children pick up on most things, particularly conflict between their parents. Be as flexible as you can (even when it feels like it is never reciprocated!) to try and minimise tension on the day;
When it comes to special days we all of course celebrate with gifts and Father’s Day is no different save that you might be the person buying that gift (even when you never received one on Mother’s Day!) Children will want to give their dad a gift, but chances are they won’t think of it until the last minute. Many teachers are seeing to it that gifts are made at school, but just in case, talk to your child about what they would like to give, and help them make something or shop for a gift. Children usually get a real kick out of giving, and will appreciate your help in purchasing something special for their dad;
Make it guilt free
Make it clear to the kids that they are free to have a good time celebrating with their dad. As hard as things may be for you, try and separate your children’s emotions from your own. For children to be unburdened by any guilt allows them to spend ‘in the moment’ time. If your children are able to enjoy their day, you will too (as long as you follow tip 6 too!)
Don’t take it personally
When it comes to separation and divorce there can be many difficult emotions to manage. Chances are your kids are sheltered from most of them but that doesn’t mean it is any easier for you. You are doing your job as a parent if your kids can enjoy their time with each of you, as hard as that sometimes can be. The relationships that we all have with our children are unique and should be celebrated every day, but today is of course the day we celebrate the many Dad’s in our lives.
Celebrate you as well
Make use of the time in which the children are with their dad to do something important for you. See your own parents, take yourself for breakfast or brunch, or start that book you’ve been meaning to get to- whatever gives you joy, make time for it today and celebrate ‘you’.
As a family lawyer who has seen a decade and a half of Father’s Days, I can guarantee the following: two sets of memories are created on Father’s Days – your child’s memory of the event itself, and of you, the wonderful parent who facilitated it. Both are carried forward to your children’s adulthood, and the latter memory will be particularly respected when your child is old enough to know how selflessly you acted, despite the challenges that doing so may have presented.
And, all going well, your goodwill will be reciprocated come Mother’s Day 2017.
Dan Bottrell is a Specialist Family Lawyer based at BGM Lawyers on the Gold Coast. He is a Husband to Jo and Dad to two beautiful sons. Dan specialises in working with business owners during divorce, having assisted some of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs and their families during this difficult time. You can learn more about Dan Bottrell here or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
If you are experiencing divorce or separation and don’t know where to start, Clarissa’s book, ‘Splitsville- How to separate, stay out of Court and stay friends’ will keep you on the right path. Available in bookstores now or Order your copy here.