Let’s face it — not everyone has a close relationship with their father. So you may be wondering how to get through Father’s Day if you have a complicated relationship with your dad. We spoke to some experts to get the inside scoop, because we know it may be a challenging day. The more advice, the better, right?
“Remember that even though your relationship with your dad may not be perfect, Father’s Day is a day to acknowledge that they ARE your dad, not a day to rate their success in the job,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC, psychotherapist and bestselling author of Renew Your Wows!, tells HelloGiggles.
“Kindness and forgiveness are essential to all of our relationships, and even though there may be unresolved issues with your father, use this as a chance to be kind,” Sumber continues. “Think of this as an easy opportunity to simply be nice, be kind, and send a card or leave a voicemail just saying hello.”
In addition to what Sumber says, here are six more tips on how to get through Father’s Day if your relationship with your dad isn’t fantastic.
1Prepare yourself — mentally and emotionally
Even if you’re not in the mood to speak to or see your father on Father’s Day, there is a healthy way to do so. “Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally,” Dr. Suzana Flores, author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives, tells HelloGiggles. “Before meeting your father, remind yourself that his hurtful statements or obnoxious behavior towards you has nothing to do with you.”
Dr. Flores says toxic people do and say things that are a reflection of how they feel about themselves, which is why they end up projecting insecurities and self-hatred onto other people. That’s why you have to mentally prep and remember that their hurtful behavior is not your fault.
2Still respect and love him
Yes, we know — it may be hard to feel love toward him if you’ve had a less-than-great relationship with your dad, but Father’s Day is a day to take the high road. “Even when you’re fighting with your dad on Father’s Day, you need to learn how to respect and love him,” Dr. Flores says. “This is for your own sake, so you can rest your head on your pillow knowing that you did the best you could.”
3Still send positive thoughts his way
You may not be on speaking terms with your dad, and that’s okay. But you can still wish him the best, even telepathically.
“If you aren’t on speaking terms with your dad this Father’s Day, no worries,” Shirani M. Pathak, licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Relationship Center of Silicon Valley, tells HG. “You can still come from a place of kindness and send him as much love as you can muster up by sending him good thoughts and positive vibes that he be well.”
No matter how rocky your relationship with your dad might be, you always have the choice to send him love and kindness. This will actually help you more than him in the long run, because you’ll let go of some of the anger you might be harboring toward him. Pathak tells HG this is the “only way to heal your relationship with your dad within yourself.”
Comedy often alleviates difficult situations, right? Dr. Flores agrees. “Remember to use humor ― sometimes humor can help us get through a difficult encounter,” she says. “For example, before entering your dad’s home, remind yourself you are not dealing with a logical person and tell yourself, ‘And now I am boarding the crazy train’ as a way to remind you that you are fully expecting ‘crazy.’”
5Have an exit strategy
Perhaps you decide to give in and see your dad on Father’s Day, even though you know it may be challenging. Well, having a way out of the situation can certainly make it more bearable, especially if things start to get a little hairy and uncomfortable.
“Develop an exit strategy ― there are many reasons why we avoid spending time with toxic parents, but on Father’s Day prepare an excuse in advance for leaving early,” Dr. Flores says. “Whether or not your father believes your exit strategy, the point is that, despite other obligations, you chose to spend time with him on Father’s Day.” That’s what matters in the end.
6Remember no one is perfect, not even your dad
We’d like to think our parents are perfect, but that’s rarely the case — no one is. “Remember that your dad is human and humans aren’t perfect,” Pathak says. “When we are able to come from a place of kindness and compassion, we can see that our dads have their hurts, too.”
This doesn’t give your dad permission to treat you poorly, but it does give you perspective on why he is the way he is. Additionally, if your relationship with your dad is really starting to wear on you, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. This will help you work through your own emotions, as well as help you become the type of parent you want to be in the future.