Co-Parenting Etiquette on Mother's (and Father's) Day

Mother's and Father's Day can be tough to navigate after a difficult divorce or separation.

Mother's Day and Father's Day provide an excellent opportunity for kids to express their love and appreciation for their mother's and father's. A separation or divorce doesn't change anything about the significance of these days, yet it can impact how families go about celebrating them.

As a co-parent, it can be hard to face these days in particular. Complicated emotions towards the other parent of your children can make it hard to see your kids celebrating that person when their respective holiday comes. Even worse, issues surrounding parenting time on these dates can add a complication factor to the day. Whatever your family's situation may be, keep in mind a few etiquette points that can help these days go by smoothly and in favor of your children.

Plan to have your kids spend time with the parent whose day it is

Being able to spend these symbolic days with the parent who is being celebrated on each is important to many families. If you and your co-parent already share parenting time, this should be simple. Decide how to handle parenting time on this day early on. You may have already scheduled your kids to be with their mother or father on each day, whether it be for the whole weekend, only that day, or a few hours. If you haven't yet, consider proposing a plan to your co-parent for how to handle these days this year and for upcoming years so you don't have to schedule in the eleventh hour next year.

If you and your co-parent live far away from each other, you can still help your kids connect with their other parent. Find time for a phone call or, even better, a video chat. A video chat via FaceTime or Skype can be a simple way for the parent living far away to not feel so distant on this day. It could even allow for your co-parent and your child to do things like playing a game together, reading together, or partaking in some fun activity to make the day a little lighter even from a distance.

Let your kids celebrate everyone they wish to celebrate

Not all families today include just two biological parents. Bonus parents and grandparents often play an important role in a family. If your kids have a close relationship with their bonus parents and grandparents, they shouldn't be excluded from the festivities of Mother's Day and Father's Day. In fact, many families already celebrate these days with extended family. 

Let your children celebrate all of the people who care for them on these days, but realize that you might have to schedule different celebrations to accommodate everyone. You might schedule a second day of celebration before or after the actual Mother's or Father's Day dates if your children didn't have a chance to spend the day with their bonus parent or grandparents on either side of the family. 

Help your children put together a small gift

Gifts are often part of Mother's and Father's Day, even if they are just something small. Encourage your kids to put something together for the parent whose day it is. A Mother's Day card or a Father's Day art project are great ideas for small gifts that your kids can make on their own. If they wish to buy something with their own money, take them to the store.

This might be challenging for you if you are harboring bitter feelings towards your co-parent, so remind yourself why you're doing this. Encouraging your children to have a loving, close relationship with both of their parents is a huge benefit to your kids. Let them celebrate both you and their other parent, but if they need your help to do so, lend a hand with positivity.

Keep it a happy day

Make a promise to yourself to keep any conflict at bay on Mother's Day and Father's Day. Avoid bring up tense topics with your co-parent. Don't put your kids in the middle of conflict by asking them to relay messages for you or saying things that could make them feel guilty for spending this day with their other parent.

If you actually find yourself alone on Mother's or Father's Day due to being far from your kids, spend your day doing something that makes you happy. Connect with your children, then go enjoy the day doing something you like. Get together with extended family or friends, or if you are away from these people as well, do something else that makes you happy. 

It may not be easy to face Mother's or Father's Day after a difficult divorce or separation, especially when the upcoming holiday isn't your day. Your etiquette over these holidays might feel like it has changed, but in reality, it should remain similar to how it was previously. Let your kids focus on the parent they are celebrating on Mother's or Father's Day by spending time with the parent, physically or remotely if necessary. Stay upbeat as you help your children prepare a gift for your co-parent if that's something they want to do. And most importantly, no matter how you plan to spend these holidays, make them happy days for you and your kids. You deserve to enjoy your day, whether or not you are the one being celebrated.