While I was chatting with another divorced mother recently, the conversation of Father's Day came up.
"Are you going to get your ex a present that would be from your son?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I said.
"Did he get you a present for Mother's Day?" she asked.
"No," I said. "But my son made me a personalized plate in school, so I still got something. School is out, so he won't be getting a plate for Father's Day."
"Then maybe you should help your son make something for him," she said. "I don't think I would, though."
I wasn't sure I would either. But then I thought about it — what kind of lesson would that be for my son? Such issues often turn up while co-parenting through a divorce. And according to Jude Bijou, author of "Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life," it can be beneficial to take the high road.
"What we want to teach our kids are the virtues of kindness and looking for the good in giving," said Bijou, who is also a marriage and family therapist. "A day like Father's Day can be a really great opportunity to focus on the positive when dealing with your ex-spouse."
Here are Bijou's tips for celebrating Father's Day as a co-parent:
Let your child take the lead.
"The act of giving does wonders for the child," Bijou said. "Ask your child, 'What does Daddy really like?' and then help him write a note or draw a picture of something the father is passionate about. When a child feels that their participation really matters, it makes a lasting impression and they get more excited about the entire process. "
Focus on the appreciation.
"Regardless of what happened between you and your ex, this is the time to teach your child to look at their good qualities. Have your child write a list of all the things they love about their dad and give it to him."
Honor men, not just fathers.
Bijou said if a child doesn't have a father in his or her life, find other male figures to celebrate.
"Maybe you have an uncle, or a family friend who has a strong presence in your child's life," she said. "Have your child write him a note or a poem and let him know he matters."
"Make a family tree of past fathers and grandfathers," she said. "This could be a nice tutorial for everyone to learn about the lineage of their family. It's a fabulous occasion to paint or draw something about all the men in your life. "
Let go of the anger.
"Children absorb the resentment and anger," she said. "We don't want our anger and unresolved stuff to contaminate the day. We're honoring the best in all fathers."