Mother’s Day recalls all things maternal – warm and wonderful hugs, children’s homemade cards, a delicious dinner, mom’s loving kisses and smiles. But Mother’s Day can be extremely challenging for children who have lost a mother. Not to mention school days of celebration and childhood memories that can last a lifetime.
I know the challenge of responding to those days. My wife died a week before Christmas when our kids were 6 and 5. Mother’s Day came awfully fast for me and my two sons. I knew my young elementary school aged children would obviously have to celebrate the day in ways far different from other children. I gave a lot of thought to what would help my sons get through their first Mother’s Day, and others, in the best, least painful way possible. Together we discovered what worked best for them and I, but it took some thinking and doing.
I can recommend the following five approaches to help you and your kids celebrate Mother’s Day if they don’t have a mother present in their lives. I hope these tips help you too.
- Remember the good times. Pictures are great for triggering memories. Bring them out and talk to your kids about the day each picture was taken. Share the life you and your wife were dreaming about and how she felt about having kids. Keep the talk on an age appropriate level. There will be days to come when they are older and can understand more. Always reassure them that you are a team and you have no intention of breaking up the team.
- Establish new routines. A new routine can be simple or elaborate. On the first Mother’s Day after my wife died, I bought roses. The kids and I went to the local pier and threw the roses into the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, we looked out of place in our Sunday best among the swimsuit set, but we were on a mission. The boys enjoyed participating in this unique tribute to their beloved mother. Find a special place for your new routine.
- Find a “new mom” for the children to honor. This doesn’t mean getting married right away. It means finding a mom substitute – a sister, aunt, grandmother, or special female friend to whom your young children can send cards to and write messages. This helps remove the stigma of being a motherless child in elementary or middle school. My boys chose their aunt Stephanie and my mother.
- Encourage your kids to write a letter to their mom. When having kids write such a letter, make sure they know it is for them and their mom only and that no one else will read it. You might want to put the letters into an envelope for safekeeping. If the kids are open to it, you can read last year’s letter before writing a new one. You can save their letters and return them when they are older.
- Eat cake. Go to a movie or rent a movie. Kids don’t want to sit and grieve. They don’t want to sit period. Get up and get out of the house. Shoot basketballs, throw a baseball, play miniature golf or go to a zoo. Enjoy a new day. Create positive new memories to crowd out the negative ones.
Remind them that even though their mother isn’t physically around, they still have a mother who loves them dearly.
If your children are in elementary school, remember there is often a Mother’s Day card making activity at school and conversations about moms. It can be a hard time for them. Discuss with them ahead of time who they will make cards for, and hint at what to say.
Being a parent is difficult and challenging. Being a single parent with young kids is even harder. Help your kids make it through Mother’s Day by trying new approaches to a tough situation. Try new routines to create positive memories, discuss their school’s Mother’s Day activities and what they can do or say, have a female role model they can look up to. Talk to their teachers so they know your kid’s situation.
Mother’s Day is to celebrate mom’s, but for the widowers, the moms are no longer around. Try my 5 tips with your children to see if they help you. Both my sons and I survived Mother’s Day without their mom. We adjusted and adapted to our new way of celebrating. I assure you that you and your children can too.