Without a doubt, one of the toughest aspects of divorce is dealing with holidays. For newly single dads, Father's Day can be especially tough. Many fathers don't have primary custody of their children, so they may only see their kids for part of the day or possibly not at all.
Adjusting to holidays as a single dad doesn't have to be difficult. It helps to have the right mindset and free yourself from any negative emotional baggage, at least for one day. It's also important to remember that the day is about you and your children, not ongoing disputes with your ex.
Here are eight tips to help you and your kids have the best Father's Day possible.
Let it go.
Yes, you may have some very legitimate bad feelings about your split. If you're paying alimony and child support for a divorce you didn't initiate, you may be bitter, and justifiably so. However, remember that your children are innocent bystanders in the ordeal. Try to clear your mind of the emotional baggage so you can focus on what's most important - quality time with your children.
Communicate with your ex.
We can't stress this enough: divorce with children is much easier when there's open and amicable communication between parents. That doesn't mean you have to be friends or forgive her for any past wrongs. It simply means that much stress will be lifted if you and your ex can have a civil conversation with one another.
Plan ahead by discussing Father's Day with your ex.
Be clear, but not confrontational, about what you'd like to do and how much time you'd like to have with the kids.
If she has issues with your plans, listen to them respectfully and try to find a compromise solution.
Keep your eye on the end goal of spending quality time with your kids and understand that you may need to alter your plans to accomplish that.
Your ex may want you to pick up or drop off the kids at a location that differs from your usual spot.
If you're keeping them overnight, she may want them back at an early hour the next day.
Whatever the request, try to keep a flexible attitude. Ask yourself: is it worth losing time with your kids to make a point or win a small battle? In most cases, probably not.
Have a plan.
Again, the focus should be on enjoying the day with your children. With that in mind, take some time to plan the day. Find a fun activity that the kids will look forward to. Also, make sure you have all the logistics down. You may need to plan for naps and eating schedules. If your kids are younger, you should make sure you have a full supply of diapers for all of your fun activities.
While Father's Day is supposed to be fun, it can turn stressful pretty quick. As you know, children are unpredictable. They'll likely pattern their attitude and outlook off of you. If you are happy, positive, and stress-free, expect your children to have a similar outlook. However, if the pressure of the day has you stressed out, your kids could become stressed, too. Taking the time to plan your day will help reduce your stress and make the day more enjoyable for everyone.
If you and your kids don't live in the same city, you may not be able to see each other. While that's unfortunate, it doesn't mean that you can't share some time together on Father's Day. Many fathers use Skype to chat with their children online. As long as you each have a computer with a webcam, it's very simple to use.
For an extra fun activity, try using Skype's "Share Screen" feature. You have to have a premium account to do it, but it allows you and your kids to watch anything that's playable on your computer. So you could watch a sporting event online or a movie on Netflix with your children and have the ability to chat as you do so. It's not quite the same as being together, but it's better than simply talking on the phone.
Ask your family and friends for help.
Your ex may not take the time to help your kids buy or make gifts. Of course, you probably don't care about the gifts. However, your kids probably do.
Gifts on Father's Day and Mother's Day are often more about the children having fun and surprising their parents.
If your ex doesn't take the time to help them with this, your kids could feel guilty and sad about it. Ask your friends and family if they could possibly help out.
A grandmother, aunt, or family friend could be the perfect person to help your kids plan their Father's Day gift.
Do not involve the new significant other.
You may be in a new relationship and you may be excited for her and your kids to spend time together. While there's nothing wrong with that sentiment, Father's Day may be the wrong time to do it. You kids are probably looking forward to a special day with their dad. Introducing your new significant other to the mix could create feelings of jealousy in your children that may be hard to untangle down the road.
Set a good example on Mother's Day.
Want more cooperation from your ex on Father's Day? Start by setting a good example on Mother's Day. If you acknowledge the importance of that holiday and help to make it enjoyable for your kids and your ex, you're likely to see more flexibility and cooperation a month later on Father's Day.
Getting through the holidays may be tough, but you can make it easier with a good attitude and some advanced planning. Remember, it's your day. Focus on you and your kids and you should have fun and memorable time together.