Not everyone (including me) has had the best relationship possible with their father. The fact that mine has been gone from my life for many years allows me to be more objective about ways our relationship could have been a little bit better.
I say a little bit because I could only have changed how I acted, thought or felt, I had no control over my father’s actions. Remember – I can change only ME I can NOT change YOU! Trying to change the other person is likely to be met with resistance. Let me share a couple of ideas:
Perfection is not needed!
If things tend to be shaky between you and your father then making a small step or two forward may actually be healthier than making big changes. First of all it may feel more doable for you and secondly don’t forget he is used to your current relationship and big changes, even positive ones, could feel scary for him, some people just do not like changes! The goal is to have a more enjoyable day for both of you 🙂
The small steps forward you make will totally rely on your current relationship. For example if you don’t normally give him a card or present then perhaps sending him a card is a good first step.
I remember when I started giving my father cards on special occasions signed … With Love, it felt like a huge step to me. Heck I have no idea if he even noticed those two small words but it made me feel better by writing what I could not say!
Be aware of opportunities for fostering a healthy interaction. How your family interacts with each other will dictate what those opportunities look like. For a healthy family with just the usual family friction it may simply be a matter of verbalizing positive thoughts and feelings as they come up. It is amazing how a heart-felt compliment can brighten up a person’s day 🙂 If your family has a long history of arguing and bickering it may be simply a matter of taking the opportunity to NOT engage in verbal attacks!
Being objective can go a long way towards being able to see some of those opportunities we just talked about. Instead of expecting the worse (or the best for that matter) allow yourself to just observe what is being done and said. If you are being objective it is easier to realize that you have a choice about how you are going to feel and react to a situation.
For example if someone throws what you think is an insult at you can choose to take a deep breath or two, giving yourself time to decide how you want to handle the situation instead of immediately reacting in anger. Here are a few possible choices you would have in that situation –
- feel insulted and be sad or angry and do nothing about it. In this case you can tell yourself “I choose to ignore this because I want to feel good!” This can bring some control back to you over your feelings while still keeping the peace.
- feel insulted and be sad or angry and insult back. (obviously not advised as we are talking about having a peaceful encounter! 🙂 )
- feel ok about it because you know the insult is not true, or that the person throwing it thinks they are being funny. You may want to decide if this is something to talk about at a later date.
- here is another choice – do you want to laugh at a joke that is made at your expense or just be silent?
- or you can take another deep breath and make a calm statement of disagreement.
As you can see you have lots of choices, how you feel is largely in your hands!
Allow yourself to feel grateful for any goodness that comes from your father, no matter how small. This goes back to the concept that you can only change how you think and feel. By choosing to focus on positive interactions you help yourself to change your attitude to one of gratitude. The biggest benefit of this is that it leaves you with a positive feeling and one or two small positive memories of the day.
If there simply is not any goodness that comes from your father find something else to be grateful for. ANYTHING no matter how small or silly can make a huge difference to your attitude! At the end of the day when you are alone with your thoughts away from outside influences you will find that dwelling on anything good that happened can leave you in a more positive frame of mind!