When you separate from your partner, one of the hardest parts is not living with your children full-time any more. Special days like Father’s Day can be tough. While the day might previously have unfolded spontaneously, it now requires planning and the pressure to have a fantastic time with your children.
The most important thing though, is that you spend time together and your children can count on you to be there when they need it. Here are my tips for a great Father’s Day and some advice for those having trouble agreeing on childcare with their ex.
Speak to your ex-partner ahead of time about your arrangements for Father’s Day. Avoid negotiating the drop-off time at the front door if the kids are within earshot. Children are affected by any conflict between their parents and you want the day to get off to a good start.
Make sure the kids are in the loop
It’s not just the adults that need to know what the day holds – kids do too! Father’s Day advertising is everywhere, and they’ll probably be talking about it at school. Your kids will want to know that they’re going to be seeing you. If they’re a bit older, involve them in making plans for the day.
Do ordinary things
It doesn’t matter what you do, just spend time with your kids. Have breakfast together, kick a ball around at the park, talk about things that interest them. Having fun doesn’t have to cost money, in fact it’s better if it doesn’t. The more “normal” your time together, the better. The important thing is that your children know how much you love them and want to spend time with them.
When Father’s Day falls outside “your weekend”
Not seeing your kids on Father’s Day is disappointing, but don’t let the day go uncelebrated. Whether it’s the following Sunday, or an hour after school, Father’s Day can be any day you want it to be – embrace the time you have together and do your best to make it memorable.
What if your ex-partner won’t let you see your children?
This is a tough one. If things are that bad between you, it might take a while to sort out. In the meantime, your ex-partner might be more open to you having the kids if you take along some other family members such as, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Helpful for you too, if someone can play with the toddler while you chase your 4-year-old around the park. Let your ex know exactly what your plans are and limit the time to a short visit if you need to – the important thing is that you get some quality time together.
If you would like more time with your children generally, but your ex-partner doesn’t agree, there are a few organisations who can help. As a starting point, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Community Law Centre. Both will be able to advise you of your rights, as well as options for how to approach the situation.
The Family Disputes Resolution offer a mediation process which may help you resolve issues with your children’s mother. You can each discuss your concerns and work through them with a trained mediator.
If you’re still unable to reach agreement, then you could think about engaging a lawyer. This is an expensive option; if you are unable to afford it, you may be able to access legal aid which is funding to help you with your case. Usually, most or all this funding must be repaid.
Involving lawyers can move the situation forwards more quickly, but it’s not always the best option for ongoing family harmony. You and your ex will be parenting together for a long time, so try to reach an agreement together, rather than opposing each other. Accept that there will probably be compromises on both sides. The more you can work together, the happier it will be for you and your children in the long run.
Once you have an agreement, I recommend you formalise it in a “Parenting Agreement”. This is a document which sets out various aspects of how your children will be parented and can include who the children will be with for the holidays and special days like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. This can limit disagreements and misunderstandings as everyone knows what to expect.
Parenting can be hard, especially after a separation, but it’s worth the effort to have a close relationship with your children. Whatever challenges you’re facing, do your best to make sure you spend quality time together. I wish all the fathers out there a happy Father’s Day!