Father’s Day can be a difficult holiday for many people for many different reasons. Perhaps your father has passed away or is otherwise not in your life, and the day is a painful reminder of his absence. In those situations, the third Sunday of June can be a rough one.
For others, Father’s Day might be a reminder that your relationship with your father is not what you wish it was. This scenario can offer some hope — after all, a relationship that exists is one that could be better in the future — but can also come with a lot of expectations about what your Father’s Day should be like.
Fortunately, managing your expectations about Father’s Day, along with some longer-term thought about how your relationship can be improved, can help the day be one that’s positive for everyone.
Read on for tips for reconnecting with your father, for Father’s Day or any time. Whether it's in the short-term to have a day that leaves you both smiling, or the bigger goal of reconnecting with your dad and strengthening your relationship going forward, they're worth a look.
1. Take the first step.
“You can spend a lifetime creating regrets by waiting for him to make the [first] move,” says relationship expert April Masini. “Lose that dug-in positioning and take the high road.” Father’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to reach out with a generous and open offer, Masini says.
2. Think about the "why" of bad behaviour.
If your father has behaved in ways you found hurtful in the past, try to understand the reasons why in order to move past it, suggests Kimberly Giles of Claritypoint Coaching.
“If Dad hurt you in the past, understand he did whatever he did because he was either afraid of failure or loss,” Giles says. “Anyone who has fear of failure issues might cover that fear with arrogant, haughty, or angry behaviour. They might try to convince you they think they are perfect, but inside they could still be scared to death they aren't enough.”
Seeing fear as the motivator for past poor behaviour may help you find some compassion towards your father, she says, which can help you move towards forgiveness.
3. Lower your expectations.
You can manage your expectations around Father’s Day, or any other time in your relationship with your dad, by setting clear boundaries and keeping things simple. “You don’t have to orchestrate an elaborate get-together,” Masini says. “You can simply go for a walk and grab ice cream, or clean out the garage together.”
If you set the expectation of making your day perfect, you can become paralyzed by the anxiety of it, she says.
4. Keep it simple.
On the other hand, if you’re worried about time with your father ending in an argument, you can keep it short and simple, Masini says. Lunch, coffee, a walk, or other short visits are also meaningful, particularly if they go well and leave you wanting to do it again.
“Marking the day by doing something together is more important than what you do or how long you do it,” she says.
5. More may make it merrier.
Including your siblings, if you have them, in your plans can provide a buffer and dilute the possibility of friction, Masini says. “If you’re worried about unpleasant one-on-one time together, invite your siblings, your friends, or your aunts and uncles to participate in a Father’s Day barbecue, day at the zoo or beach picnic,” she says. “Whatever it is, having others around often keeps good behaviour flowing.”
6. Consider a letter.
Think about how the disconnection with your father began, and try to respect the boundaries he may have set in the relationship. For example, if your father is the one who initiated the disconnection, try reconnecting with a letter that allows him to respond on his own time.
“If he initiated the distance, it’s good to start by respecting that,” says Dr. Alicia Meyer, a licensed psychotherapist in Wisconsin. “But it’s also good to let him know where you stand and that you would like to open a door to trying to connect again.”
7. Step in your dad’s shoes.
Attempt to consider your father’s interests and viewpoints, even if they are completely different from your own, says relationship expert David Bennett.
“I know many children who want their dads to accept them for who they are, but refuse to accept their dad in the same capacity,” Bennett says. “Cut your dad the same slack you want, and then find common ground.”
8. Build in an activity.
Centering your time with your father around an activity can help prevent awkward silences and keep the intensity down, Meyer says. “If there are unspoken things between you and your dad that you’d like to process with him, I would recommend inviting him to do something with you where you can focus on another task while you talk,” she says.
If you share a hobby or interest, that’s a great way to connect without putting all the focus on conversation.
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