Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for many people Mother’s Day is not a happy day. There are many people who grew up without a mother. Their mother may have died when they were a child due to cancer or the Coronavirus, they may have grown up in foster care going from home to home, their parents may have divorced and their mother was not involved in their lives or maybe they were adopted or they may have been raised by a grandmother or even a father who tried to be both mother and father. These are just a few reasons why someone may have grown up or is currently living without a mother figure. As a result, Mother’s Day can bring up a number of different feelings for these people. They may feel sad or the may feel very angry to name a few emotions. For an idea how widespread this issue is in our country, 1,000,000 Americans died due to the coronavirus. Many of those who died were mothers, grandmothers or mother figures for someone. Therefore, we have over 1,000,000 Americans who are dealing with Mother’s Day without a mother they can physically spend the day with and celebrate. If you think about, there are a lot of people and many of them are small children who are having difficulties understanding why their mother was taken away or in some cases abandoned them. Therefore, we need to be aware that not everyone will be feeling happy on Mother’s Day.
In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people, as I stated above, their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Some people may have had an argument with their mother at some point in their lives and they no longer speak to each other. Finally, many people have lost their mothers, grandmothers and aunts over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. Therefore, Mother’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.
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 mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or cancer. Other mothers 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 is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be especially difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family. Often children whose mother has died or left, act out at school and home when their class is making Mother’s Day gifts.
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 Mother’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 Mother’s Day. If you have a child who has a difficult or No relationship with their mother, you may want to be aware to how they act as it’s getting closer to Mothers Day.
I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’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 Mother’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 Mother’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 mother. 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 aunt or another female 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 mother has left the family too. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.
Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.
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.