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Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are important days to celebrate, not just for the sake of honoring a parent, but because they offer an opportunity for children to show their love and appreciation for their parents in their own special way.
While this is a bit more challenging in a separated family situation, it is still important to support your child’s relationship with their other parent. To what extent you can do this is dictated by the type of relationship between you and your co-parent. However, we’ve provided some ideas below to consider.
Set Aside Time for Your Child and Co-parent
Ideally, these symbolic days are addressed in your custody agreement. Depending on your time-sharing plan, your child may already be with the parent being celebrated on that day. If not, be sure to plan pick-up and drop-off times to cut down on day-of stress and last-minute issues, whether it is for the entire weekend, the day, or just for a few hours.
If your child does not live near the co-parent or other circumstances do not allow for an in-person get-together, plan to set aside some time for a phone call or video chat. FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom are great tools to help foster a connection. TalkingParents' Accountable Calling feature even includes transcripts and recordings of all calls to help keep things accountable and civil. Ensure your child is somewhere they can concentrate on the call with the co-parent so that the time is meaningful and there are no distractions or time constraints causing them to feel rushed.
Help Your Children Plan a Gift
Depending on your child's age, they may not have their own funds or be able to shop for their parent. While it may be challenging to think about purchasing something for a co-parent, especially if negative feelings surround the separation, keep your child’s happiness in mind and remember what these days are truly about.
A Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift doesn’t have to be over the top or expensive. The goal is to allow your child to express their love in a unique way that is special to them and their parents. Talk to your child about things they like to do with your co-parent and any memories they may have together that spark joy. Something as simple as a handmade card or art project will suffice, or if they have money of their own, offer to take them to the store to buy something. Doing this together to support their relationship with the other parent will strengthen your relationship with your child.
Allow Your Child to Celebrate Stepparents or Grandparents
Families come in all shapes and sizes, especially when a separation has occurred. There may be multiple people playing a parental role in your child’s life, including a stepparent or grandparent. If your child wants to celebrate someone other than their biological parent on this day, try to accommodate this.
It can be difficult enough to put aside hard feelings toward your co-parent, and adding a bonus parent to the mix can make it even worse, especially if it conflicts with your time to celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with your child. Try splitting the day or perhaps scheduling a day before or after for your child to spend time with others. If this is not possible, schedule a time for a phone call or video call. Remember that if your child has established a relationship with someone close enough for them to consider as a parent, this is one more person caring for your child at the highest level, and that is something to be thankful for.
Focus on Being Thankful
The key to handling any holiday in a co-parenting situation is to be thankful for your child above all else. While you may find yourself with limited or potentially no in-person time with them on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, rest assured that they are thinking about you.
Open communication, advanced planning, and a set custody schedule will make these days easier to handle for all involved. Practice compassion and grace and understand these days are as much about your children as they are about your co-parent. Focus on your child’s happiness first, and that may help you get through what could be a difficult time.
Downloadable cards for your child to personalize on Father’s Day. Just download, print, and fold in half!
Downloadable cards for your child to personalize on Mother’s Day. Just download, and print!
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.