Many people assume Father’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their father. However, due to the pandemic and deaths due to the pandemic, Father’s Day this year maybe a very difficult day. We have many adults and children who are grieving the death of their father or grandfather due to the coronavirus. Therefore, making it a sad day for them. Remember over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. Many people who died were fathers and grandfathers so there will be a lot of grieving families this Father’s Day. Additionally with the number of mass shootings, people may be grieving the death of a father or grandfather. Also if it was a school shooting, fathers may be grieving the lost of a child or a spouse. Again making Father’s Day a difficult day, not a happy day.
In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Father’s Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people their father may have died when they were children. For some people their father may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their mother raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their father. Finally, many people have lost their fathers, grandfathers and uncles over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. Therefore, Father’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day. They were raised without biological family and feel left out of Father’s Day.
While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the recent death of their father. As I stated above, some children may have a father who died from the Coronavirus, cancer or in a mass shooting. Other fathers may have left the family due to a drug problem and are not involved with the family any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school or summer day camp are making Father’s Day gifts it can be difficult for children whose fathers have died or left the family.
I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and on Father’s Day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate themselves and not want to be involved with anyone or anything having to do with Father’s Day.
I have had parents ask me how they should handle Father’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.
My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Father’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. It is important that you understand that Father’s Day is difficult for them and you understand if they are upset or don’t want to do anything. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do to remember their father. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an uncle or another male role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.
This approach can help children whose father has left the family too. Many children may believe their father will return one day. Confronting this belief around Father’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their father, allow them to do it.
Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Father’s Day and make it easier for everyone.
Also as I stated above, with the mass shootings many fathers may be grieving the loss of their child or spouse. They may have had their child’s funeral the day before. Again, remember this is a very difficult time for a parent or spouse so allow them the freedom to deal with the day the way they want. Being there and being supportive is the best thing you can do for Fathers who are grieving and for children who are grieving.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.