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ParentsAugust 30, 2018

Crowdsourced tips to get through Father’s Day when the day sucks

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Getty Images

Father’s Day can sometimes feel like the worst day of the year. So we’ve crowdsourced advice from people who struggle through the day and want to share ways to make it better.

There are lots of reasons why Father’s Day can be a really tough day. Maybe you’ve lost your dad and you’re facing what was a special day you once had together without him. Maybe you’re a man who wants to be a dad but for whatever reason it hasn’t come to pass and that brings its own sadness. It could be that your dad isn’t worth celebrating. He might not have been a good dad, might not have even tried to be what you needed as a child. The important thing to remember is you are sadly not on your own. And those others who are struggling with the world focusing on dads have got your back – and they’re sharing advice.

Here are some tips for getting through the lead-up and the day itself, and any extra feelings that follow, from people who have been there or are still going through it. I appreciate their generosity in sharing these. Everyone I asked has been really generous in sharing their wisdom. Like all advice, some is contradictory, some won’t feel right to you, and some won’t work for you. Take what you need and leave what you don’t. These work just as well on other Hallmark days like Mother’s Day. The suggestions have been edited for clarity and in some instances combined.

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to feel however you’re feeling – angry, sad, nothing. There’s no wrong way to feel.
  • Mute words on social media so you don’t get bombarded with advertising or messages. Avoid social media altogether if you think the public declarations will upset you too much.
  • If you decide to send a card even though you’re not close or have gone no-contact, that’s not a cop out. It’s okay to have a greeting card relationship. You get to set the boundaries.
  • If you’re a parent with a crap dad, ask your partner (if you’re parenting with someone) to share with you how you’re different to your father. If you had a good dad, and you miss them, this exercise will also work. How are you similar to your parent? How does that honour their legacy?
  • Prepare a script for what you’ll say to co-workers if they bring up Father’s Day. You might want to say “I’m not close to my dad but I hope you have a great day” or “It’s a hard day for me, but I hope you enjoy it”.
  • Plan your day in advance. Try to do something that doesn’t involve eating at a cafe as it might be full of dads. Choose a movie or maybe a hike if you feel like getting active.
  • Honour your feelings – write a letter telling your dad how you feel. You don’t need to send it.
  • Remember that you get to decide how you feel and ignore bad advice. If people say you must forgive and forget abusive or poor behaviour from your father, remember that they have no idea what your life has been like, or what you have had to go through as a child and an adult. You do not have to take what they say on board.
  • Spend time with other people in your life who have stepped in to fill that dad role. Thank them for part they’ve played in your life.
  • Thank your mum or treat her as you would treat a dad – if she has filled the role of both parents then you might like to acknowledge that.
  • If you have children or plan to have children take some time to think about what kind of parent you want to be. This can be healing – knowing you won’t continue the cycle of bad parenting can be transformative.
  • Talk to your loved ones in advance and tell them what you need from them. “I need us to not focus on the day” or “I would love it if we went to the cemetery together” is a good idea.
  • If you’ve lost your dad and you were close, consider eating his favourite meal or drinking his favourite drink.
  • If your dad is an asshole, buy the whiskey you would get for a good dad and drink it yourself while whispering “I’m the dad now”.
  • Declare the day ‘Don’t Talk About Dads Day’ and get your friends who also hate Father’s Day together to have a nice lunch or a few drinks without discussing the day.
  • Buy yourself a present and congratulate yourself for raising yourself to be the good person that you are.
  • If you feel you have to see your dad prepare yourself ahead of time. Repeat to yourself ‘The way he feels about me is not a reflection on who I am as a person. His actions toward me do not define me. I am not the person he thinks I am.’

If you have a good dad, people without relationships with their parents would like you to remember this on Father’s Day (and all days):

  • “Forgive and forget” is not a helpful thing to say. Everyone deserves the right to decide how they feel about poor behaviour. By insisting someone just forget abusive or bad behaviour from a parent you are encouraging them to not value themselves.
  • You don’t have to give advice. “It’s exhausting to constantly hear people with good dads tell me how I should feel about my abusive father. They have no idea. I wish they’d just listen instead of talking over me.”
  • Father’s Day is not a magical day where you should expect other people to put aside their trauma to make you feel comfortable. Do your best to refrain from saying things like “It’s just one day – you should call him” or “It’s your chance to let it go”.
  • Avoid empty platitudes and forcing Hallmark ideas onto people: “Someone said to me last year ‘this is your chance to be kind’. And I just thought wow, you’ve no idea. You’re putting all of this on me and making me use this day to accept abuse or else I’m not kind? That is really un-kind!”
  • Don’t tell people to “take the high road”. They can take any road they please and it’s none of your damn business.
  • Take a moment to think of those without dads. Can you send them a supportive message, can you check in?
  • If your friend’s father has died consider sending them some memories you have of him: “I was sent a lot of texts on Father’s Day from friends saying ‘I know this day will be hard for you without your dad, I’m thinking about you. I remember he was a really funny guy and he loved you.’ Sharing those memories with me helped me so much.”

If you have any other ideas please share them in the Facebook comments.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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