How to help children cope with Father’s Day when you have separated

Children can find separation and divorce difficult at the best of times. But on occasions like Father’s Day, it can be worse. A family solicitor shares advice on how to help them cope.

In the past few weeks the world has celebrated Father’s Day. If you and your partner are separated or divorced, your child might have found this day tough. And you may be wondering how to deal with other tricky times ahead, such as holidays, birthdays and Christmas.

To help you, Janette Johnston from A City Law Firm shares her advice for parents.

Your child’s first solo Father’s Day can be ‘life changing’

Separated families and especially children can become overly anxious about Father’s Day. Children always aim to please their parents on these special days, the build up to writing a Father’s Day card, to going out for a special meal or picnic or just doing something together as a family.

Recently, I was listening to the actor and presenter David Harewood on Dessert Island Discs when he shared his feelings with Lauren Laverne of living in a family that was the centre of his universe until his mother left the family home when he was young and was left with his father. 

He described that moment in his life “life changing”. The cupboards were no longer full of food and his father’s mental health declined. I must say I could feel the hurt in his voice as he spoke about it, even though he is now a grown man with his own family.

He told the listeners that he did see his mother during this time but there was an agreement struck that he stay with his father. However, his message was that the situation left him feeling left out, he no longer woke up to the comforts of a loving home.

It is not uncommon that children do feel left out when parents do separate. Parents can over share information with the children which should be avoided at all costs. Often parents will say that they were not aware of anything they kept everything confidential, however, usually know and can pick up on feelings and will invariably be impacted by these

What has experience shown us to help?

It is important to explain in as straightforward way to your children as possible what’s happening and be supportive (as best you can) to each other, some of the tips would be to use age-appropriate language and be prepared to explain quite a few times to a child who need to be reassured.

Explain to your children that you know it is painful for them, they may experience grief, anger, sadness, and confusion. A way forward would be to acknowledge their feelings – cry together if that helps but be united as far as you can and do not criticise the other parent.

Agreeing access on Father’s Day

As a family and child solicitor I’m often brought into the conversation sadly during the special events when parents tried to vary contact orders to accommodate upcoming events. It is not always smooth or acrimonious despite trying very hard. 

This now brings me back to Father’s Day and the advice is that you both agree as much time as you can how the day and access can proceed. This is so your children will see it as a positive experience not just for themselves but the relationships they build in later life.  

The court system is currently full to the brim with cases involving children and there are some circumstances in which judgments of judges/magistrates’ must be made where there are allegations of safeguarding issues. 

However, there are many cases that are clogging up the system with matters that can be resolved amicably without issuing expensive court proceedings, after this will be around contact with the other parent on birthdays, Christmas and special events like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

The arguments and disputes often destroy the special moments for children in their life, so we strongly encourage our clients to think of their future feelings towards these occasions try where possible to consent

It’s always best to try to find a resolution

As an experienced family solicitor, I often find myself caught up in many parent’s disputes and at court.

However, I try extremely hard to bring the parents together to resolve their matters amicably for the sake of the children, avoid costs and matters scaling beyond control. It is a solicitor’s duty to seek resolution where possible and to help the parties navigate what is an extremely difficult time.

Read more advice on parenting after separation

If you’d like more advice on parenting after separation or divorce, you may find these articles helpful:

If you need further assistance you can contact either Laura Jennings or Janette Johnston in the family department of A City Law Firm.

Photo by Steven Van Loy