Sunday, March 19, is Father’s Day. However, not all children celebrate the date with their parent: some because they were abandoned by him; others whose parents have died or live geographically far away; and still others, because their family constitution is different.
Traditionally, this date is intended to highlight the importance of father as a male figure for the child and the family. However, we need to consider that there is a fringe of children who live in a different family reality, however, not necessarily worse.
The concept of family has evolved and our society already embraces different family constitutions, in addition to the traditional “man, woman and children”. For example, there are families where there is a man who is not the child’s parent. Or where there are two women or two men, without this being a problem.
Children can easily understand that families are not all the same and there is no harm in that, because the family must mean affection, care, security and respect, and this can be ensured in any family constitution.
Being a father is not just generating life, it is much more. It’s being present in a child’s life and accompanying their growth as a privilege that can be experienced regardless of blood ties. When the adult contributes to the integral development of the child, making sure that he feels loved and included in the family and in society, he is looking after his well-being, and this must be recognized.
But not all parents are healthy presences for the child, and there are other people who can play the role of reference figures, marking the child’s developmental path in a positive way, such as uncles, godparents, stepfathers, grandfathers. There are parents who don’t always show up, only when it’s convenient, who disappear without saying anything to the child or who leave the child waiting indefinitely and feeling guilty because he believes he has done something wrong.
Being a father is playing, laughing, walking, caring, worrying, protecting, talking, reading stories, taking to the doctor, to school, getting emotional when the child says “daddy”, teaching, hugging and, with your presence and affection, leave good memories kept in the child’s heart.
How to help the child in delicate situations?
Inform the kindergarten/school
It is important that educators and teachers are aware of the situation and can be aware of the child’s sensitivity and behavior on these festive dates, in order to adapt activities and speech in the classroom.
Address absence with the child
In the case of absence due to abandonment or death, those who take care of the children find themselves in a delicate situation: having to deal with the emotional side of the little ones, especially when the kindergarten or school prepares a party and, for a few weeks, the theme is addressed daily. It is not possible, nor desirable, to hide this from the child because he will notice.
An open and sensible conversation about the new forms of family and about the absence of the biological father, on this day, should show the child that he is loved by many people and that the celebration can take place with another person that she chooses. Likewise, the gift and presence at the school party can happen with the grandfather or godfather, for example.
In the case of the father’s death, the child can, together with the mother, make a drawing or write a message to the father. Drawing and letters/messages are used as a powerful meaning building tool for children.
It is important to clarify that, when the father is absent by his own will, the conversation should not include criticism or whining that end up putting the child’s feelings in the background.
The author writes according to the Orthographic Agreement of 1990