Helping children without fathers

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2019

By Nathan Rice

It was Father’s Day, and it was hard for them to ignore. Kids at school talked about special plans with their families, advertisements showed dads happily holding their kids, and the church had a special presentation to honor the fathers in attendance.
I thought it might be a difficult day for them, so I made a few plans to help them have fun instead of being at home for the duration of the day. I said, “Thank you,” when someone wished me a Happy Father’s Day at the restaurant, but they got quiet. Soon, one of them spoke up and said, “We don’t have a dad.” His sister corrected him quickly, saying, “We do have a dad. We just can’t see him.” He agreed, saying, “You’re right. We don’t know if he’s dead or in jail.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry that your dad is gone.” We talked a little more about their absent father before the conversation turned to the events that were planned for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately, their situation is not uncommon. Many children come from homes where their fathers are only a memory. Others may have never even met them.
I hope we will all be considerate this Father’s Day to children who do not have a father in their lives. The day can bring a lot of emotions to children without fathers as they are reminded of a missing part of their lives.
Those who work with children should be careful about Father’s Day activities. These activities shouldn’t be avoided, but there should be a plan in place for children without a father.

Having each child make a card for daddy is great, but we should be careful with our wording. Saying, “We’re all going to make a card for our dads for Father’s Day” can leave those without a father feeling awkward and unsure of what to do. Changing the wording can make all the difference.
“We’re all going to make a card for someone we love. It would be great to make a card for your dad since it’s Father’s Day on Sunday. You can pick someone else you love if you can’t give one to your dad. I’ll be glad to help you figure out who to make one for if you’re unsure.” This gives clear directions to children without a father, which allows them to proceed without having to draw attention to the fact they do not have a father in their lives.
We should also take note of children without fathers when it comes to school, church and civic group events that focus on Father’s Day. A daddy-and-me fishing trip, Father’s Day picnic or daddy-daughter dance may unintentionally exclude some children from a fun event while opening the wound that comes from growing up without a father.
An invitation from a man to join them at these events can allow children to join their peers in the activities while helping fill the gap, even if just a tiny bit, left by an absent father.
The same thing can be done when families gather to honor their patriarchs. Inviting children without a father to a family cookout on Father’s Day can allow them to enjoy a fun-filled day with a family instead of being home without a father as events take place around them.
If we work together this Father’s Day, we can ensure that fathers are honored and children without fathers are included and encouraged on this special day.

Email newsletter signup

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at