Supporting Kids Who Can't Remember Their Dads This Father's Day

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Litsa Williams

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It is no secret, I hate Father’s Day.  If you missed last year's Father's Day post in which I discussed the benefits of shamelessly sulking, check it out here.  This year I felt like maybe I should make up for last year by writing something really inspiring and productive for Father’s Day, but sadly I am just not mentally in a place to do anything productive.  I’ve been stressed at work. I have a conference that starts on Father’s Day (I know?! Who starts a conference on Father’s Day?).  A positive and productive Father’s Day just isn’t in the cards this year.  Sorry, friends.

As I was feeling sorry for myself about Father’s Day, I had a conversation with someone about helping kids who can't remember their dads at Father’s Day.  I then had one of those moments where I took a step back to consider how lucky I am that I do remember my dad.  Not only that, but because I don’t have kids of my own, I have the luxury of sulking on Father’s Day if I want to.  I don’t have to make it an artificially upbeat day for the sake of kids.  

Although using ‘it could be worse’ reasoning doesn’t take away pain, it does keep things in perspective for me.  It got me thinking that there are a million suggestions on what to do to remember moms on Mother’s Day and dads on Father’s Day (you can check our suggestions out here) but there is far less talk on supporting your child who doesn’t remember their dad, or how to help your child understand you may be having a hard time on Father’s Day if you lost your dad.

Helping children remember their dad on Father's Day

If you are supporting a child who doesn’t remember their dad this Father's Day, use the day to help the child learn more about their dad. This can seem daunting, depending on how much you have talked with them in the past about their father, so we figured some tips might be helpful:

1) Create a scrapbook and/or photo album.  This is a great activity to do with your child for Father's Day, to allow them to be part of assembling items about the person.  If you already created a scrapbook or photo album, Father's Day is a great time to show it to your child if you haven't already.  This may be an album about their father or about your father.

2) Ask friends and family for photos, videos, or audio recordings.  Friends and family often have items you didn’t even know existed.  The more of these items you have the better for sharing with children who don’t remember the person.  For Father's Day you may wish to talk to your child about who these friends and family are and reach out together to ask for these items.

3) Ask friends and family to write letters with stories and memories that can be compiled into a book.  Friends and family are often happy to do this, and it can be a therapeutic exercise for them.  Don’t feel bad asking!  This can be a great request to make together with your child in the weeks before Father's Day or on Father's Day.

4) Create a memorial website where people can compile pictures, stories, videos, and other memories.  Depending on your age and the age of your child they may be 100x better at this project that you!  There are many platforms to build a site like this, so do a quick google search and you'll find numerous options.

5) Start a memory box full of items that tell the story of who this person was.  You or the child may wish to ask friends and family if they have additional items to add.  Though a “memory box” may sound small with only a few select items, don’t let that image limit you. It can be whatever you want — it may be a Rubbermaid memory bin!  Whatever works.

6) Make a decision to talk about the person early and often.  It may be difficult for the child to understand at first, depending on their age, but Father's Day is a great time to start if you haven't been talking about their dad, or your dad, as regularly as you would like.  Just make sure you keep it up - talking about the dad's that were an important part of your lives shouldn't be limited to Father's Day!

 If it is your dad your kids don’t remember, you may feel like you need to put on a brave face and ‘fake it’ for your kids on Father’s Day.  The reality is, if your kids are old enough to understand, this can be a great opportunity to honestly share feelings with them.  

We recommend talking to kids about your deceased loved ones. You can have a conversation about death and dying in a moment that isn’t related to an immediate death, and to ‘introduce’ your kids to your dad through your favorite memories.  I promise, when your kids finally have to experience a death for the first time, it will help that you have been open with them about your own grief.  Though about Mother's Day and not Father's Day, if this is something you are struggling with I definitely recommend Eleanor's post: A Letter to My Daughters: Mother’s Day After a Death.

Good luck with Father's Day, however you spend it.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

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14 Comments on "Supporting Kids Who Can't Remember Their Dads This Father's Day"

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  1. Gail Zucker  April 2, 2020 at 2:05 am Reply

    Wonderful suggestions that confirmed my thoughts of renewing memories, activities, thoughts, and experiences of my children’s father whom we all loved and admired. My youngest at the time of his death was 11 years old. She says she does not remember her father other than stories her sister, myself and our family have shared with her. Thank you for reminding me of making a memory book of each of my children’s experiences with their father. Two books, pictures of them together and with all of us, and just as important thoughts from others about who their father was to them and everyone.

  2. Kerry Turl  June 14, 2019 at 8:21 am Reply

    My grandsons are now 2 1/2 and 10 months. Their Dad died 19 months ago – killed by an impaired driver. We talk about him often so the 2 1/2 remembers him through stories and pictures but the 10 month old never got to meet his Dad (my daughter was 6 weeks pregnant when her husband was killed) and it’s devestating that there are no pictures with him and his Dad together. This is the first Father’s Day (he was too young last year) that my older grandson is asking where his Daddy is (all his friends have one and they mad Father’s Day crafts at pre-school) and why he can’t come home. It’s really hard to find those age appropriate word. Sunday will be hard.

  3. Elizabeth Roy  June 13, 2019 at 6:52 pm Reply

    This so helpful. We have a boy in our group who cannot remember his mom. These suggestions are wonderful.

  4. Margot  February 9, 2019 at 2:35 am Reply

    I lost my dad at 22weeks old. Of course I don’t remember him, but I did react to his death and cried when I couldn’t find him (they told me). His brothers wife just recently gave me some letters that he had written to his brother. These are priceless. I’ve got pictures, but I think there’s only one with me in it, and I can’t find it. I always wanted to hear how he loved me., and stories of how we interacted. I was told he taught me to say “radio.” I think the idea of people writing down their memories of him and what he was like, and give some examples and stories of things he did, and if they have any letters from him to give them to the person. I was always told that he was a really good, and caring person. Also that he was a smart businessman. It was my brother that wasn’t born until a month after he passed.

  5. Lois Thorpe-Delaurier  June 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm Reply

    I think no matter when it happens, when you are 5 or 45 it is difficult to lose a Dad. I had moved out when I was 16, I wentboff to university, got married, had kids, and even though I only got to see him once a year on vacation, I missed him. I could not imaginecthe pain a child must feel. We as adults can rationalize or use other life experiences to deal with the loss, a child can’t.
    When my husband died 2 years ago, suddenly my boys were 14 and and 16, a difficult time at the best of times. It has been difficult for the youngest especially. I think we are just going to ignore the day, and do something together. Eventually the time will be right to honor their Dad’s life but maybe not quite yet.

  6. Vicki  September 8, 2015 at 8:46 pm Reply

    My friend’s daughter not only doesn’t remember her dad she never even got to meet him bc he died before she was born.
    My friend, whose name is Lisa, said she disliked that her two sons would have weak memories of their dad but that “Morgan won’t know anything at all except what we tell her.”
    She also disliked that he couldn’t be there to throw her in the air and catch her like he did with his sons.
    I don’t know if that’s changed. I haven’t talked to the friend for a while. I don’t think it has though bc she was really upset about it.

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