The Holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year or the most painful, particularly if you’re a military father with little or no time with your children. The emotional and financial stress of the holidays can intensify parental conflict, escalating parental alienation and leaving children with feelings of guilt, pain and no dad during the holidays. Not everyone will sit down and share a meal and the warmth of family during the Holidays, and this can be an especially lonely time for military dads and their children.
By taking a few important and proactive steps, however, some dads can still find comfort for themselves and their children caught in the middle. Home is where the heart is, and no matter what the struggles may be, fathers are crucial in building the foundation of their children’s futures.
Here are five helpful tips for disenfranchised fathers in the military to make the most out of the Holidays for them and their children:
The Holidays are an ideal time of year to strategically plan for your children’s future. Identify opportunities to engage and bond with your children as much as possible. Keep them at the forefront, showing that you love them and that you'll always be there for them, even if you aren’t physically with them.
Focus on the Children, Not the Extravagance of Gifts
Too often, military fathers make the mistake of giving their children an astronomical number of gifts to compensate for the lack of time they're able to spend together.
You don't want to set unrealistic expectations for your children down the road. Value thoughtfulness, not cost. The greatest gift you can give your children is your strength and love.
Start New Holiday Traditions
Creating new traditions and memories is a great way to focus children’s attention on the positive aspects of the Holidays.
Think about what your parents did for you when you were growing up that you still cherish. Why not recreate some of that for your children? Talk to your children about how they would like to spend the holidays, and together, you can create new memories that are filled with happiness and harmony. If that's not possible, explore other means of communication, such as texting, email, FaceTime, and Skype. However, third-party social media websites like Facebook are not advisable because of their lack of privacy.
While distance can make the heart grow fonder, it can also weaken communication between fathers and children, especially during the Holidays. Make a habit of reaching out regularly to your children. Actively listen to your children and identify any life challenges they may encounter so you can help them problem-solve—they need your strength to build their own. The excitement of the Holidays only lasts for a short time, but your continued paternal involvement can last forever and will inspire them to reach goals they never thought possible. Receiving praise and encouragement from Dad compares to nothing else and will create childhood memories that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Cherish Every Moment
If you have limited time with your children, make sure that every moment counts. Use that time to create memories that the children will always hold close to their hearts. Things do not make others happy and wholesome—relationships do.
Regardless of the difficulties, the most important thing to remember is to never give up hope during the Holiday season. Holidays provide opportunities to create memories and traditions that can be shared--and that's essential for maintaining stability and comfort in military families. Utilize this time of year to enrich your children’s lives and implement traditions that they will treasure forever. Failure is never an option for your children. Remember: courage is the magic that makes dreams come true.