By now you’ve seen the Father’s Day ads and probably heard people talk about their plans for Father’s Day. It’s a wonderful day if your dad has been emotionally and physically present as well as supportive. But it can be a depressing day if your dad has a history of disappointing you, failing to show up or has hurt you in other ways. Regardless of whether it’s a long-standing tension or a recent conflict, we have some ideas we’d like you to consider when you think about that relationship:
- Recognize you’re not alone. Unfortunately, many have experienced abandonment or friction with their dad. It’s easy to see friends who have tight relationships with their dads, but it’s harder to see how many friends experience that tension because they typically don’t talk about it.
- Realize your dad is limited or impaired. Healthy men do not abandon or injure their children. They just don’t. They go out of their way to protect, teach, and enjoy their children. We’re not giving your dad a pass, we’re simply asking you to recognize that something went wrong in his life that contributed to his behavior. It’s not you, it’s him.
- Focus on any positives. If you have warm, caring memories of your dad, acknowledge them to yourself. Nobody is all bad. Being hurt by somebody doesn’t mean you didn’t have good moments. You can also turn a negative trait into increased awareness. We’ve had clients who say their father’s aggression or bad behavior helped them realize what’s important when it comes to picking a partner.
- Examine other fatherly influences. Think about coaches, teachers, friends’ dads, bosses, and other men who have imparted knowledge, given advice, or believed in you. Don’t dismiss them or see them as irrelevant. Those interactions serve the same role dads serve in terms of teaching us about the world and how to operate in it.
- Consider forgiveness only if it is appropriate. There has been a lot written about forgiving someone who hurt you for your own peace. We have worked with countless clients on that goal, and it might be exactly what you need. But we recognize that some injuries feel unforgiveable, and we would never push someone to forgive if they weren’t interested or ready. Acceptance of mistreatment is a worthy goal as well. Once an injury is accepted, it loses its power to continuously hurt.
- Make a plan for Father’s Day. Don’t stew or feel jealousy on Father’s Day. Make a plan with good friends. Take yourself to a movie. Hike a beautiful path. Oversee your mood.
Acknowledgement. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Whatever your goal, be kind to yourself as you pursue it. Take breaks. Keep up with self-care. And please don’t do that work alone. Talk with trusted family members, friends, or a good therapist. If you feel anxiety, sadness, or anger on Father’s Day, it’s a sign you might want to set a goal of healing.