How do you cope on Father’s Day when you’re not getting along with your dad, you’re not speaking to him, or he refuses to talk to you? These tips on coping with Father’s Day when you don’t have a great relationship with your dad will help you respect him while honoring your own thoughts and feelings.
You can have your Father’s Day cake and eat it too!
Before the tips, a quip:
“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” ~ Pope John XXIII.
No matter how difficult, frustrating, or disappointing your dad is, you need to let go of your resentment. Not for Father’s Day, not for his sake, but for your own mental and emotional health.
If your childhood was as rough as mine, read Bad Childhood – Good Life: How to Blossom and Thrive in Spite of an Unhappy Childhood. It’ll help.
And, here are six ways to build a better relationship with your dad…
Coping on Father’s Day When You’re Not Getting Along With Your Dad
These relationship tips are geared towards Father’s Day, but work any time of the year.
Put yourself in your father’s shoes
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey encourages us to seek first to understand, then seek to be understood. I know how hard this is when you have difficult parents – my dad moved back to his home country, Israel, when I was three years old! He never called or wrote; he visited once. But, it does help to put myself in his shoes (he always intended to go back to Israel, my mother refused to go with him, he didn’t know how to contact me because we were always moving around, etc). When I see his behavior through his eyes, I see him as a human being, a man who made mistakes and did the best he could. I don’t have a good relationship with my dad, and it’s okay.
Accept your dad as a human being who makes mistakes
Our fathers aren’t perfect. They say the wrong things, do the wrong things, wear the wrong clothes, and marry the wrong people. But, to have a better relationship with our dads, we need to accept that they’re just men. They have weaknesses, foibles, flaws…they’re not Supermen, and they’re certainly not perfect TV dads like Howard Cunningham, Heathcliff Huxtable, or Mike Brady!
Don’t try to change your father’s personality or lifestyle
Many family conflicts arise when children try to change their parents, or siblings blame each other for problems, or parents try to change their children. Instead of focusing on what you wish your dad would do differently, accept him for who he is. Accept his lifestyle choices, his personality quirks, his past choices. Whether it’s Father’s Day or not, he is your dad…and he gave you life.
If your dad is driving you bonkers, you may find Dysfunctional Families – 5 Tips for Solving Family Problems helpful.
Let go of unrealistic expectations
Your dad can’t be who you want him to be. To have a better relationship with him – and to make Father’s Day less difficult – stop wishing he was different. Instead of holding on to unrealistic expectations, set new expectations that are based in reality. For instance, my dad still doesn’t contact me, even though I’ve traveled to Israel several times and stayed with him and his family. It’s unrealistic to expect that he’ll suddenly start sending birthday cards, or come to Canada to visit me! Our fathers are who they are, and for our own sakes we shouldn’t expect more than they can give.
Learn how to deal with “difficult people”
Is your dad difficult to connect with, talk to, or be in the same room with? Find ways to roll with his personality. Dealing with difficult people can be challenging, but there are many books and resources on how to deflect conflicts and situations. Read about boundaries, take workshops or classes about setting healthy boundaries with difficult people, and consider talking to a family counselor about the best way to cope with your dad. Maybe you’ll never have a great relationship with your dad – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get emotionally healthy.
Groove on who you are today
My best tip for people who want a better relationship with their dads on Father’s Day and beyond is to accept and honor who you are. Your parents, your childhood, and your experiences all coalesce to create your unique personality and life. Do you like who you are? If so, don’t blame your dad for his choices – you may need to thank him! Maybe his actions made you stronger, more resilient, and more successful. If you don’t like who you are, then you need to find a way to get whole.
Your dad may have messed up your childhood, but you’re the only one who can mess up your adulthood.
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