Father’s Day is a wonderful celebration, but the holiday can be stressful for single mothers. Younger children are often unaware of the holiday, but as they get older and start asking questions, single mothers face the difficulty of navigating a tricky area of family relations. According to the U.S. Census Department, the number of single mothers living with children younger than 18 was 9.9 million in 2010, up from a count of 3.4 million in 1970.
Many younger children are unaware of Father’s Day, though this isn’t always the case. Many elementary schools are non-denominational, yet still focus on family celebrations, such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. This can present problems when Father’s Day rolls around in a family where a father figure isn’t present.
Surviving the Holiday
As children get older, they naturally grow more curious about the world around them as they attempt to form their own identities. Every single mother has their own approach and unique situations; in some cases, fathers are not present because of divorce, separation, death, or a variety of other circumstances. Children may know the status of their father, or may have never encountered him before in their lives. All of these issues make Father’s Day challenging for the single mother.
Surviving Father’s Day is easier when the holiday is used for family time. Even younger children have the capacity to understand that their families are different than those of their friends, so pretending that Father’s Day doesn’t exist will only work for so long. Circumstances are different for every family, but helping children understand that Father’s Day is a day to celebrate their own unique family is an excellent way to navigate the holiday.
Celebrate a Father Figure
Similarly, depending on the situation, Father’s Day can be used as a holiday to celebrate an applicable father figure in your children’s lives, such as a grandfather, beloved uncle, or involved family friend. A familiar, trusted partner of the single mother can also be involved in Father’s Day; according to the U.S. Census, 1.5 million mothers who gave birth in the year 2010 fitting into the category of women who were not married, who were separated, or married but with an absent spouse were living with a cohabiting partner.
Ultimately, helping children understand that the concept of ‘father’ goes far beyond biology by improving their self-esteem and relationships, along with preparing them for understanding the family situations of their peers as they grow up. Involving older children and teens in an open and honest dialogue about their feelings concerning the holiday can also bring about a greater sense of family comfort.
Look at Your Child’s Attitude
Father’s Day can be a difficult holiday for the single mother, and every family has a different situation to deal with. Pay attention to the children’s understanding of Father’s Day as a holiday, their conceptions of their father, and the overall family dynamic. Enjoy Father’s Day as a holiday celebrating the family as a whole, or involve an alternate father figure to give the children a more traditional experience. This holiday is actually quite manageable for the attentive, patient single mother.
If you child has prolonged feelings of stress, anxiety or depression from the absence of a father, opt for therapy and find a local child counselor or psychotherapist to help talk through their feelings.