According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are millions of single fathers in the country. Due to the way that the family court, county and social service systems operate, fathers are often not allowed to spend as much time with their children as they would like following a separation or divorce. This includes Father’s Day.
“Father’s Day can be brutally painful for noncustodial fathers”, said Dads’ Resource Center Executive Director Jeffrey Steiner. “Many do not even get the opportunity to be with their children for Father’s Day. For those that do, it can be bittersweet as they are able to cherish some time with their sons and daughters, while also being reminded of all that they are missing out on and how unnecessary and hurtful the custody battle is to them and their children.”
It is not unusual for a noncustodial father to be unable to spend time with his children on Father’s Day. It can take a very long time to even have the opportunity to revise a standing custody order, and there can be provisions that counteract one another. An order that sets aside Father’s Day for the dad can be overridden by a provision giving each parent a week of summer vacation if the mother schedules her vacation the week of Father’s Day.
Some of the fathers who are involved with the Dads’ Resource Center were asked to provide tips for dealing with Father’s Day as noncustodial fathers struggling to be in the lives of their children. Here were some of their responses:
Make the most of the time you get. “Treat every day you are with your kids like it’s Father’s Day for you. For the kids, make Father’s Day fun for them and it will be fun for you.”
Be empathetic for your children. “Put yourself in your children’s position and try to be as understanding as possible. They are stuck in the middle and can’t show a lot of emotion. Don’t take offense if they don’t act happy because they are in survival mode.”
Make it about them. “I am happy in my house when they are happy. I just want to give them refuge from this storm. So, if they want to be on their phone talking with their friends, if they want to zone out and watch TV and that makes them happy, I am happy.”
For those fathers who are unable to spend Father’s Day with their children:
Don’t get stuck on what day it is. “You have to treat Father’s Day like any other day. Then create your own Father’s Day on an evening during the week before or the weekend before or after.”
Be flexible and creative. “Stay connected in any way possible, even if it isn’t reciprocated.”
Open your heart to other children. “I try to find ways to hang out with other kids, like my nieces or nephews. Enjoying time with them makes me feel like a dad again.”
“Nothing is more devastating to a man than being denied access to his children and being completely powerless to do anything about it, “said Steiner. “But the children are the ones who suffer the most in these situations. They are unnecessarily denied the presence of their fathers and subjected to persistent tensions and uncertainty.”
Dads’ Resource Center was established by Dr. Joel N. Myers, a father of eight and the founder and CEO of AccuWeather. The mission is to help combat the issues associated with children growing up without their fathers in the home. At its heart, the center is a child advocacy organization that aims to ensure that each child has the appropriate involvement and contributions from both parents.