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5 Tips for Celebrating Father's Day When the Must-Do Parent Is Away

Must-Have Parent

Procrastinator's alert: Father's Day is this Sunday.

In my house, the holiday it's more like Far-ther's Day because my husband is, once again, far away.

Like many of you, we will have to find a way to honor the man of the house without him actually being present to bask in the adoration.

Gift-giving holidays are especially challenging when the guest of honor and gift recipient won't be home to join in the festivities.

Related story: Top 10 Father's Day Gift Ideas and Discounts

My family has been through quite a few of these Far-ther's Days, and so I have suggestions for honoring a Must-Do parent from a distance:

1. Plan ahead.

A father who won't be home to be celebrated in person means you don't get to take that easy Sunday-brunch-and-a-necktie approach. You have to have most of your great ideas at least a week in advance.

If the father in your family is deployed or in a remote location, you may have to plan a month or more in advance in order for the gift to get there on time. (Which means this advice won't do you much good now. Better luck next year!)

And when you're sending that gift, remember: no chocolate. It's June -- chocolate will melt before the box ever makes it to him.

2. Small gifts are best.

If you plan to mail a present, think small. The absent Must-Do parent is probably staying somewhere where he doesn't have a lot of room to store a big gift. Also, he'll have to find a way to get that gift back home, so it needs to fit in his bag and be something he can get through airport security.

A watch, a wallet and, yes, a necktie are all great gifts to mail. A powertool or a knife? Not so much.

3. Pick a platform, any platform.

Odds are good that you're already video chatting with the absent parent, but if not, a holiday like Father's Day is great time to start. Video chatting means that you can go ahead and have that brunch in his honor and set a laptop or tablet at the head of the table so he's "there" with you. (Just don't taunt him by eating in front of him. That's just not fair.)

There are several platforms that offer video chat, or VOIP services, with Skype being one of the most popular. Consider how you'll access the service -- on a smart phone or a laptop or desktop compute,r and how many people you'll want to join the call.

If you have older kids who won't be home with you but want to join the call, you might select a service like Google Hangout that will allow multiple in different locations to join the call and to do so using a smartphone app. If you want to call him on his Apple device from your Apple device, FaceTime might be your best bet. And there are others too.

4. Work the camera.

So you screwed up and didn't get a care package full of gifts and adorable drawings from the children in the mail and it's way too late to do it now? Never fear, technology is your friend.

Go ahead and box all that stuff up and mail it -- better late than never-- but first take some pictures of the drawings. You can email or text the pictures to him throughout the day on Father's Day, along with snapshots of the family. Maybe you could each make signs to hold in the pictures telling him what you appreciate about him.

Holidays have a tendency to make people feel lonely when they're separated from family. Seeing proof that his family is thinking about him and appreciates him will brighten his day.

5. Don't skip it.

Really, I can't emphasize this enough. Just because the father in the family is away, doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be celebrated. In fact, he's likely away because he's trying to take care of the family.

The parenting holidays (Mother's Day and Father's Day) are the MOST important ones to celebrate for a Must-Do parent, especially when that parent is away. Our Must-Dos spend so much time away from the family that they're more likely than Must-Haves to question their parenting contributions and abilities.

However you choose to honor him, be sure you let that Must-Do parent know what you already know to be true: You couldn't do it without him.

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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