How to cope when Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is difficult

Card shops, adverts, and Facebook tell us that Mother's Day and Father's Day are meant to be lovely, celebrative days. But what if you don't have a mum? Or a dad? What if you have two mums? Or what if Mother's Day and Father's Day bring back bad memories? The Mix spoke to therapist Ruth Alborough to seek the best advice.

girl sits on windowsill looking out

Not all people find it easy celebrating their parents...

I’m adopted

Some people who are adopted feel totally at home with their family, and don’t think twice about celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

But some struggle, feeling like they’re not allowed to celebrate. These days might even be triggering for others and cause upset about their biological family, whether they know them or not.

The best thing to do in this situation is talk, whether that’s to your adopted family, biological family, counsellor, or friends. It’s ok to feel awkward, sad, or angry on these days.

Ruth says, “celebrating with one set of parents doesn’t mean you are being disloyal to anyone else so do what feels right for you.”

My mum/dad died

Everyone deals with grief differently, and for some these days can be a stinging reminder of your loss, whether it happened a few months ago or years and years ago.

“Do whatever feels most comforting,” says Ruth. Just because your parent is no longer here, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate. “Go for a walk that you used to do together, buy yourself a new lipstick they would have loved, or play their favourite music and just let yourself feel close to them.”

However, be aware of other family members who may not want to celebrate. Have a chat before the day to see how you all want to spend it.

And if you want to just snuggle under a duvet on your own with Netflix, that’s ok too.

I don’t get on with my parents

There can be nothing worse than opening Facebook and Instagram on Mother’s and Father’s Day to a timeline full of soppy posts when you have no intention of doing the same. And that’s fine! You don’t have to join in with the social media frenzy.

But if you’re currently arguing with your parent, it can be awkward. Maybe have a think. Is it worth it? Can you forgive and forget just for one day?

If this argument is more like ‘we never get on, I cannot wait to leave this house and never speak to them again’ then Ruth has some wise words: “There are no hard and fast rules here and for some people cutting off contact with their parents is the healthiest thing. If you are still at home, remind yourself the day will end. Find ways to be kind to yourself, family conflict is never easy and you are doing the best you can.”

My parents are gay 

You love your parents with all your heart, but Mother’s and Father’s Day are a little too archaic for your family of two mums or two dads. This is all you have to remember if you ever feel like your family don’t fit the cookie-cutter mould. You’re allowed to ignore Father’s Day and go all out for Mother’s Day, or vice versa… just make sure you’ve saved double the money.

I live away from my parents

Whether you’re abroad, at university, or just live away from home, it can be hard to feel like you’re doing your best on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But sometimes that’s just life, and hopefully your parents understand that.

“A small amount of effort can go a long way in showing your parents they still matter,” says Ruth. “Taking the time to ask how they are, remembering what’s happening in their lives and telling them you love them can mean a lot.”

Thankfully we live in the age of Skype and Snapchat, so you can treat your parent to a lovely dog filter on your face.

What about step-parents?

Sometimes a ‘broken home’ can turn into an overloaded one and you have more than one set of parents. Hopefully you get on with everyone and it’s not an issue, but sometimes you could feel pressured.

Ultimately, it’s up to you who you celebrate! Sometimes a step-parent can feel like a biological one. If you’re unsure what to do then talk to any siblings you have about it as they may be feeling the same. Or ask a friend who also has step-parents what they do.

My parents are abusive

If you’re suffering with abuse at home, don’t feel like you have to put up with it, let alone celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Put yourself first. If you can’t speak to somebody about this, such as a teacher, then you can always get in contact with us here at The Mix or Childline if you’re under 18. You’re not alone and deserve to be treated well.

Next Steps

  • You can talk to Childline about anything. Call them for free on 0800 1111 or visit their website.
  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 22-Mar-2017