Celebrating Father’s Day

Celebrating Father’s Day

Celebrating Father's Day Hero Image
Written by Carol J. Bishop, LMFT
Published on: Jun 05, 2024
Category Fatherhood

Father’s Day was declared an official National Day of Celebration in 1972, 58 years after the commemoration of Mother’s Day. Father’s Day is an opportunity to honor fathers, grand fathers, and other father figures, and to recognize their importance in the lives of children. It can be a joyous day of recognition for active fathers and father figures, as families celebrate in many different ways, with special family activities, special meals, and messages of appreciation. For fathers of children who are adopted, this day may be extra special. For some, adoption is the singular, fortunate path to parenthood. For others, building their family through adoption s the result of stepping up to raise kin children, or simply the desire to expand their family by bringing children who need a family into their fold.

Often families are a blend of adopted and biologically connected children. In all cases, research shows that involved fathers and father figures play an important role in the social, emotional, and cognitive development of their children.

Ditta M. Oliker, PhD succinctly states the widely held view on this issue in an online Psychology Today article.

“There is no question that fathers do play an important part in their children’s lives: the majority of studies affirm that an involved father can play a crucial role, particularly in the cognitive, behavioral, and general health and well-being areas of a child’s life; having a positive male role model helps an adolescent boy develop positive gender-role characteristics; adolescent girls are more likely to form positive opinions of men and are better able to relate to them when parented by an involved father; it is generally accepted, under most circumstances, that a father’s presence and involvement can be as crucial to a child’s healthy development as a mother’s; and experiencing validation of their importance in the general parenting literature has made fathers much more conscious of their value, which, in turn, leads to their greater desire to be involved.”1

Adoptive fathers are often called upon to do reparative work with their sons and daughters who might have experienced poor, abusive or non-existent parenting by a father figure. They can make a profound difference in their child’s life by modeling good parenting, establishing trust, demonstrating positive values, practicing empathy, and patiently participating fully in their child’s life and interests.

I asked two adoptive dads how they anticipated the arrival of their children and how they saw their roles. Carl, father of a large family of six children, 5 of whom were adopted, told me that as each adopted child joined their family, his need to adapt his parenting style was “… dependent on the child as each had their own set of issues, both good and not so much.” Individuation and the recognition that there is no “one size fits all” in parenting are essential qualities to successful parenting.

Oskar, father of eight children, seven of whom were adopted, said his main concern was their futures. “Will we be able to give them everything they need to have the futures they deserve? Will we be able to meet their needs in a way that allows them to become healthy, self-sufficient adults who have joy in their lives?”

When asked what the importance of fathers in parenting adopted children might be, Carl said his role has been “care giver, provider, teacher, soccer coach, defender even when they mess up.” Oskar stressed the importance of “…. being consistently authentic, transparent, and available to them.” He also said, “Families come in all sorts of configurations, many of which do not include fathers (single moms, 2 moms, etc.), so this isn’t exclusive to fathers, but rather to parents. That they strive for balance in the family…balancing parenting styles, balancing the needs of the children, balancing time and resources, balancing relationships with birth families and within the adoptive family, balancing spontaneous playfulness with being a safe space to have hard conversations. A big part of what I bring to my family is balance.”

This is so important for the child who has never experienced unconditional love and regard from a father, and it can be life changing. For some children, their adoptive dad is the first positive male role model they have experienced, and the establishment of trust can be a slow process. As Carl said, “Trust is a two-way street. You earn a child’s trust by showing them you trust them and are there for them when they need you.”

For some adoptive fathers, Father’s Day may be an uncomfortable reminder that there is another father out there to whom their child is attached. There are many ways that both fathers can be honored and acknowledged, without feeling challenging to the relationship that adoptive fathers have with their children. The best situation is, as Oskar said, balance in the relationship with the child’s birth family.

Children bring their past relationships with them, whether they are memories or fantasies. Many children hold the memory of their birth father close, and acknowledgement of that relationship is important on this day. Other children may never have known their birth father but have questions that rise to the surface on Father’s Day.

A child can enjoy celebrating their adoptive father, and at the same time have sad feelings or questions about their birth father or other important father figure such as a grandfather, uncle, older sibling, or former foster father. Raising the issue of that important person in a non-confrontive way can give the child permission to have a constructive conversation. A simple statement like, “I wonder where your birth father might be on this Father’s Day.” Establishing a simple ritual like lighting a candle or creating a card or drawing in recognition of that relationship can help. If the child’s birth father or father figure is part of the child’s life, including some connection on Father’s Day can be healthy and validating for the child, to know they are not forgotten and are valued by this important person.

In families with several adopted children, some may have connections to father figures, and some may not. Carl told me that of his five adopted children, now all adults, two had ongoing or sporadic contact with extended birth family growing up, one had questions as she was growing up and found siblings recently, two were never really interested in birth family contact. In Oskar’s family of two sibling groups, one birth father has reconnected and established a healthy relationship with his three adult children. He is included in family events whenever possible.

Recognizing each child’s experience, and their desire for connection to their birth father or other important father figure is important, as opposed to assuming that one perspective or activity fits all.

Consider that Father’s Day may be a painful day of loss and grief for the birth father whose child is no longer with them. Many have no relationship with their child’s adoptive family or access to information about their child. Some may reach out to the agency or other intermediary that assisted the adoption to ask for information about their child. Some are so hobbled by guilt and shame that they don’t share their grief or status as a father at all. Even though their child is not with them, they can choose to honor their role as the child’s birth father by celebrating their fatherhood on Father’s Day, remembering their child, and doing something nurturing and healing for themselves. The legal process of adoption does not negate their role as a father.

The best is an open adoption arrangement where a degree of contact can be maintained between the birth and adoptive families, when safe and consensual. Children benefit when all the adults in their life can be respectful and collegial. Children can love an infinite number of people and can benefit from positive regard among all the people they are connected to. This can make for a more celebratory Father’s Day for everyone.

Adoptive Fathers Share What Father’s Day Means to Them

Adoptive Father
“Raising children takes you on a journey we would have otherwise missed...”
Adoptive Father
“To me, Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the joy that getting to be a dad brings and reflect on how I am becoming the Dad I want to be.”
Adoptive Father
“Father’s Day means the world to me. Celebrating the privilege and responsibility of being “Daddy,” and getting an extra hug and smile...”

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