What to Do When… Father’s Day Feels Awkward

There’s something that dampens my joy on Father’s Day (also Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day). It’s the fact that these holidays are not joyous for everyone. These holidays seriously rub salt in the wounds of some people.

Assuming that your father is still living, is it hard for you to pick out a card for him? Do you do this: pick up a card, read the sappy lines about him being “all a person could wish for in a Dad”, put that card away because your relationship isn’t that close, repeat the process over and over, and leave the store with a heavy heart. If this sounds like you, take heart. You are not alone. In my counseling practice, I talk to many people who wish their parents had done these things:

  • Said “I love you”
  • Spent more time at home
  • Said “I’m proud of you”

And had not done these things:

  • Abused them
  • Yelled at them
  • Abused drugs or alcohol
  • Left the family

Other people say that their childhood was pretty good but their parents hurt them today in these ways:

  • Criticizing their parenting
  • Questioning their spending
  • Commenting on their weight
  • Showing favoritism for other family members
  • Making excuses for not spending quality time with them
  • Not calling them or not returning phone calls and emails

If your father has let you down in these or other ways, Father’s Day might not feel like a day for celebration at first glance. However, I would encourage you to think about reaching out to your father in a new way. If you two haven’t been speaking, be the first one to pick up the phone or arrive for a visit. If there has been tension between the two of you, speak or write down an apology for your part of the issue. To find examples of effective apologies, refer the book I co-wrote with Gary Chapman, When Sorry Isn’t Enough. If you are on speaking terms but you wish there could be more warmth between you and your father, you could try these things:

  • Give him a warm hug. He might also like to get a kiss on the cheek from his daughter.
  • Don’t just sign a card, but write out what you appreciate in your father. If the only thing you appreciate is that he gave you life, at least write that down.
  • Spend time with your Dad doing what he most enjoys. You get bonus points if this is not an activity you enjoy but you do it with a smile.
  • If he lives far away, arrange to Skype with him. If you have kids, let them chime in and show off their recent projects.
  • Give him a gift that shows you were thinking of him.
  • Do something for him to help lighten his load.

Whatever you do, don’t delay. Clear the air today. There are too many people who wish they had just one more day to spend with their fathers. Although no one is perfect, Dads are truly irreplaceable.