Father’s Day is here again. So often we read about how difficult it is for recently divorced moms, dads, and children to deal with Father’s Day, and that is a completely valid concern. But what about when mom or dad remarries, and the children are now a part of a happy blended family? Children may feel torn between their allegiance to a biological parent and the step-parent they may respect, like, and maybe even love. How is that child supposed to reconcile their feelings about where their love should be focused and where their loyalties should lie on Father’s Day?
No step-child, whether young or old, should ever feel forced to prove blood is thicker than water; in many blended families, step-children know they are well-loved by their step-parents, who may even have something different to offer than the biological parents.
Saying “Happy Father’s Day” to Two Fathers
As a once divorced parent who has been happily married to my second wife, Martha, for almost 18 years, I initially saw that my own two young sons were unsure about how to interact with their step-mom – especially in the presence of their own mother. But we collectively put them at ease by ensuring the divorce was amicable and we all got along. On Mother’s Day, our sons take on the double-duty of calling their mother and step-mother to say “Happy Mother’s Day” twice every year.
When my ex-wife remarried several years ago, our sons gained another step-parent. I assumed that they had been saying “Happy Father’s Day” twice all these years – but much to my surprise, I just found out yesterday that they have never called their step-father, Jay, on Father’s Day. Their explanation for this apparent double-standard was that Jay came into their lives when they were much older, and had therefore not played a part in raising them as children. Both Martha and I have told them to start a new tradition by calling Jay to include him in this celebration of fathers; we believe it will make his day and their mother’s day. Not leaving it up to chance, Martha stuck a big note on the front door to my younger son’s apartment last night with clear instructions about making the call to honor Jay on this Father’s Day morning.
What Father’s Day is About
I believe that Father’s Day is about honoring all men who influence our lives, parent us, or provide parental guidance – whether they are our natural fathers or not. Yet I have seen parents and step-parents in some blended families “pull rank” with their children and step-children, making it impossible for step-children to express their true feelings for a beloved step-parent. They forget that Father’s Day is not just about biology: it’s about honoring the men who step up and father a child, whether or not they are related by blood.
Make this a Special Father’s Day for your Children and Step-Children
This Father’s Day, I’d love to see divorced parents and step-parents help children openly and honestly express their love and appreciation for all the “fathers” in their lives. Here are some suggestions:
- If you are a divorced mom with custody of your child, please try to make sure that your child can be with their dad today – regardless of what the visitation schedule calls for. And if for whatever reason your ex cannot be with your child on Father’s Day, please help them connect by phone, Facebook, text message, or Skype.
- If you are a divorced dad and you and your ex cannot make the visitation schedule work for you to spend time with your child on Father’s Day, plan a delayed celebration for next weekend – without shaming or blaming your ex in front of her child.
- If you are a step-father, take your step-child shopping for a gift for their biological father. If they won’t be seeing their father today, make sure to give them lots of love and understanding if they’re sad.
- If you’re a step-mom, help your step-child make a Happy Father’s Day card for your husband. If the kid’s mother has remarried, help make a second Father’s Day card for the step-dad, too.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers – and especially to Jay, my children’s awesome step-father!