Father’s Day without dad can be rough.
We’ve all seen the reunion videos of moms and dads who have been away finally coming home and surprising their kids. In fact, some of us, right here in Columbia, know exactly how that feels.
But, what does the rest of the time looks like? What about listening to your little one crying for dad and not being able to explain why it’s been so long since they’ve seen him or when they can see him again? And, what about holidays and special events with the empty seat? What about Father’s Day without Dad?
Frankly, I do not feel prepared for this. Here are some ways to get through separation.
- Find ways to remember dad, even if it’s painful. Use pictures and memories, even clothes with his scent. Whenever we eat pasta, my kid says, “Daddy eat noo-noos too!” because she remembers it’s his favorite.
- Create special traditions. For instance, we went to Disney World as a girls’ trip and did a different thing for Easter.
- Set mile markers to mark time in ways your child can understand.
- Use age appropriate language to explain where Dad is and why he is away. Remind your child that Dad wants to be with them and misses them and still loves them, but has important work to do.
- Avoid news coverage that might stress your child, and adults who can’t keep their thoughts to themselves on Dad’s reason and absence.
- Make sure other adults in their life know about this big change. For example, my daughter pays special attention to all her friends’ dads, so they understand why.
- Involve your children in communication as much as possible, letting them make things, no matter how simple, to send to Dad.
- Set a special goal to accomplish to show Dad when he gets home.
- Give “gifts” from Daddy regularly, and take photos and videos for Dad of every day things.
- Keep a normal routine as much as possible and embrace this life. You don’t have to point it out or feel guilty when you do something without Dad. Don’t hold back on discipline out of guilt.
Even though I’ve tried all of these bits of wisdom and have all the modern day technology advances, it’s still so hard. Every single “Daddy back?” “Daddy where are you?” “See daddy?” kills me. But as painful as it is for me, I have a pregnancy to help me count down to double joy, a sweetheart to keep me company. She’ll forget this time. But he will miss so much, and while my work is harder, he’s definitely sadder.
Truth is, not every family gets to be together all the time. Some travel for work or a dozen other reasons. That does not make you less of a family. In fact, it can make you stronger as a family. So really, there is not a Father’s Day without dad, just a father’s day with him not in the same place. Wherever dad is, he’s still dad on Father’s Day!