In theory, Father’s Day should be a great day. I have sweet memories of watching my dad unwrap yet another paperweight I’d made him at school. But Father’s Day is hard for many, including me and my children. My kids have two hard reminders this month: the anniversary of their dad’s death and, on the heels of that, another fatherless Father’s Day.
I can’t fix their hurt and that stinks. And while I want to honor my own father who’s a great man, I also want to honor my children’s pain and their deep loss. Perhaps you or your children are also navigating a hard Father’s Day this year because of death or divorce or a dad who just hasn’t shown up for his family like he should. I’d like to offer 5 ways to help when Father’s Day hurts.
Consider not going to church that day. Our family is in church regularly, but this is one day I’ve learned to take off for now. It was too hard watching my children color homemade cards for a dad they don’t have. I am all for church but for right now, pulling back as a family on this one day has helped me navigate my children through the hard.
Plan a meaningful family outing. Instead of going to church that day, we plan an outing together and still make time to honor God. We’ve chosen not to do a theme park which might just numb over the pain. Rather, we choose an activity that gives us time to talk and enjoy each other.
Last year, my kids and I went to an old restaurant where their dad and I had our second date. The food took a long time arriving, which was perfect because we had more time to talk. We walked along the river bank outside, pitched rocks across the water and just enjoyed the family we do have. This intentional time together filled our hearts on a day that could have emptied them.
Listen to your child’s heart. Ignoring Father’s Day won’t make the pain disappear. I try to note the pain this day brings but not to linger in it. Ask some gentle questions and show compassion to your children’s responses. This isn’t a time to criticize their father with remarks of what he should have done or been. That’s never healing. This is a day to listen, to let them put feelings into a drawing, to hear concerns and answer questions.
Tell stories about dad. Kids need to know about their dad. I’m always surprised how my kids eat up family stories and how many they still don’t know. They love when I tell stories about their dad growing up (those I heard myself) and stories of our dating and early married years. If these are painful for you, tell stories about the kids and their dad or go through photo albums and videos. Telling our children stories about their dad helps them know who they are and whose they are.
Honor other strong men in your child’s life. Perhaps your children have an uncle, grandfather or stepfather who has been like a father in many ways. We need to tenderly understand that it will never erase our children’s loss so we shouldn’t gloss over their pain. We can, though, honor the men that are in our children’s lives.
Moms, we’re raising future dads and the wives of future dads. When Father’s Day hurts, it’s an opportunity to walk our children through the pain as we help them see the importance of good fathers.
How have you handled Father’s Day when it hurts? Let us know in the comments!