What to Do on Father’s Day When You’re Not Getting Along With Dad 8

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 8 tips for coping on Father’s Day when you’re not getting along with your dad will help you heal…and perhaps even repair a family rift. It’s all about learning how to respect him while honoring your own thoughts and feelings. You can have your Father’s Day cake and eat it too – especially if you remember that “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” ~ Pope John XXIII.

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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 Don’t Like Your Dad

These relationship tips are geared towards Father’s Day, but work any time of the year.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Let go of unrealistic expectations

Your dad can’t be who you want him to be.

fathers day bad dadTo 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

If you have any comments about these tips for coping with Father’s Day, please share below. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share how you’re dealing with dear old dad.


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8 thoughts on “What to Do on Father’s Day When You’re Not Getting Along With Dad

  • Jules

    Oh God….I want to call my Dad SO badly right now. I miss him. The most recent contact has been a very nasty email stating to me that I only married my husband for his bank account. My husband and I are going through a must needed separation. We tried to save our marriage with counseling without any progress. Since, my ex has told anyone in MY family that will listen that I’m seeing someone new and that I have a hidden agenda to “take him for all he is worth”. My ex husband is a VP of a very well know company here in Canada and I chose to stay ay at home and raise out children. But his word has proved to be more valued then mine. It’s Fathers Day and as much as I do not succumb to commercial holidays I’ve been remind all day of my Dads absence from my trying times.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Hi Bethany,

    I think you should give him a Father’s Day card, with a short little note telling him you’re sorry you fought and you wish him all the best. This doesn’t mean you were wrong, and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t owe you an apology! It means you’re the bigger person.

    It also means that you can sleep better at night, knowing you did the right thing. You can’t control how he acts towards you, or what kind of father he is, but you can control your response to him. And you don’t want to deal with the guilt of ignoring your dad on Father’s Day!

    So, I think the best way to cope on Father’s Day is to give your dad a card. Drop it off at his place, or mail it. Maybe it’ll be the start of a better relationship with your father, or maybe he’ll just ignore it — either way, you know that you did the right thing.


  • Bethany

    Recently I had an argument with my father, as my mum and dad are separated, he came over to our house to give a cheque to my mum on an inset day. But my Nan was looking after me and my sister. He started shouting at us (as he is stubborn) saying that I wasn’t his child any more and that my sister is his only child because she calls him more than me. I got upset and I said that I wouldn’t call him unless he calls me and says sorry. As fathers day is approaching I don’t know what to do, should I call him and say sorry (but I did nothing wrong and wouldn’t know what to say), what should I get him for fathers day, should I even get him anything? But i’m still upset and want him to say sorry for what he said to me and my Nan and I also want to see him though as I miss him. What should I do?

  • Laz

    I have not read the book. My dad always belittled me and I lived my life always trying to please him. When I would help him out he would put on a smile but days later he would forget and give credit for the help given to others or himself as if I never did a thing. As a child I was told I would not amount to much and I could not think for myself. He now does not speak to me at all basically he said I was dead to him. Sad thing is he is in the hospital and I found out accidentally from my sister. They don’t want me there for love and support. I have been outcasted because my sisters will take his side for fear he will do the same to them. I hate Father’s Day. I don’t care for Father’s Day as I do not feel I have had a real father and it is just another consumer spending day. I would rather celebrate Pets Day and spoil my pooch that greets me with kind eyes everyday when I get home.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Thanks, Sally, for sharing your relationship with your dad. I’m glad that Father’s Day isn’t too difficult for you…and that you’ve accepted your dad and your relationship for what it is.


  • Sally Robinson

    My dad and I don’t have a great relationship, and I’m okay with it. He’s 83 years old and so stuck in his ways, it feels impossible to ever connect with him. We’re totally different people and don’t get each other at all. But, I’m a successful, happy 38 year old woman with three of my own kids and a great husband. I wish we could celebrate my own father on Father’s Day, but it’s enough that we can celebrate my husband as a great dad to my kids.

    You have to focus on what you have, not what you wish you had.