How should you handle special events like Mothers Day or Fathers Day and holidays?

No matter how you slice it, separating your feelings about special days from the needs of your children is important.  If you’re grappling with how to handle a  special event like Mother’s day or Father’s day with your kids,  here’s some tips to help you get started.

Plan ahead

If you don’t already have something worked out, consider talking to you ex about upcoming events or occasions.  Take out a calendar and make note of where special days fall during the year.  Consider what’s important to your kids and think through what you could do to alleviate possible tension around those dates.

For example,  if you know it’s important to your Ex to spend his or her birthday with the children, then offer to switch days or adjust the schedule.  It might also be helpful to think about how you can accommodate situations that involve events with extended family such as Aunt Marge’s annual summer barbeque or Grandpa’s family reunion.

Follow your children’s lead

Make plans to talk with your children ahead of time about what they would like to do for Dad/Mom on their special day. Listen to their ideas about how they would like to honor their parent and follow their lead.  Remember it’s okay to set appropriate boundaries around what you can and can’t do.

Be mindful that younger children will need more guidance about how to make the day special.  Although older children are more capable and independent, they will probably need a reminder and your support.  Consider asking what their plans are for that day and if they need any help.  Although it may not seem like much, in the long run, it will mean something to your teen.

Keep gestures appropriate

Do your best to support good choices and keep gestures for the other parent appropriate.  If your children want to buy Dad a shirt, don’t help them pick out the ugliest, cheapest shirt you can find and wrap it with glee.  Likewise don’t go to Macy’s and help your children pick out something for Mom that’s two sizes too small.  Fantasize about it all you want but for your children’s sake, steer clear of temptation.

If money is an issue, consider lower budget options such as helping children make homemade gifts, framed photos, special cards or baking Mom or Dad’s favorite dish.

If your Ex isn’t supportive

Unfortunately no matter how hard you try to do right by your children, you have no control over the choices your Ex makes.  If your Ex isn’t willing to help the children, you can still offer them the chance to feel good about the day. Plan a trip to the zoo, declare you require an obscene number of hugs for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, take kids shopping and let them help you pick something out for Christmas or cook your favorite meal together on your birthday.

If your Ex won’t adjust the schedule or there’s significant distance between your two homes and you can’t be with your children on the day, let kids know you will celebrate the next time you are together.

Even when your Ex isn’t making it easy, do your best to keep special days special for your kids.