What better Father’s Day gift is there than a better, stronger, and more loving connection with one another? Take it from a dad and a daughter who know: closeness is better than a stand-alone greeting card, a golf club, a necktie, or a wallet. It’s also the gift that keeps on giving . . . love.
Here are a few simple ways to strengthen your bond with your dad or your kids this Father’s Day (or any day, for that matter).
List Everything You Like and Love about Each Other
We recently went through a rough patch in our own dad/daughter relationship. It had been a stressful time in both of our lives, and we were getting on each other’s nerves. The annoying things we didn’t like about each other were surfacing. Not only were our loving feelings fading in the rearview mirror as we pulled farther and farther away from one another, but everything we liked about each other was getting overshadowed. Then we came up with the idea of sending each other emails listing all the things we appreciated about each other. It changed everything! Negatively charged particles turned to positive ones, and paved the way for us to start talking through some of the ways in which we were bumping heads.
A few “likes and loves” on Ken’s list to Stephanie were:
Your love, affection, and devotion to your husband and marriage
Your essence as a kind, loving, and compassionate person and loyal friend
Your radiant smile, joyful personality, and inner happiness
Your love of your sister, Jenna, throughout the years
Your sense of responsibility in taking care of your (four-legged) children
Your decision to have kids and bless me with grandkids
Your courage and fierce determination (even when you’re scared) and persistence
Your intelligence and wisdom about the important matters of life
Your kickass approach when it comes to getting things done and running your business
Your taste and sense of fashion when it comes to putting yourself together
Your uninhibited laughter when something tickles you
Your artistry, creativity, originality, and keen aesthetic sense
Your honesty (even when it’s difficult), integrity, vulnerability, humility, and truthfulness
Your innocence and childlike joyfulness
Your respect for your own needs, preferences, and limitations
Your love of music and dancing
Your respectfulness in being on time
Your 333 text messages to let me know you’re thinking of and love me
Your toughness, strength of heart, sense of social justice, and fighting spirit
A few “likes and loves” on Stephanie’s list to Ken were:
Your love for your daughters
Your willingness to be a safe and caring refuge and resource when I need to talk
Your compassion, generosity, and drive to make the world a better, kinder place
Your love of Lisette [Ken’s significant other] and your four-legged son, Bean
Your love of my husband and his family
Your love of music, playing the drums and piano, and going to plays and concerts
Your adventurous spirit in branching out and trying new things
Your willingness to put away your tough-guy persona and be a soft, open, vulnerable man
Your hard work to have a healthy body so you can live a long life
The “little boy” who comes out when you’re being playful
Your obsession with flashlights!
The way you accept me, knowing I’ve always been “different”
The effect of exchanging these “What I like” emails was so dramatic and uplifting that we both decided to do the same thing with other people in our lives, with equally wonderful results. Showing appreciation with specific mention of the things we like sets a positive tone for building, healing, improving, and deepening the bonds in almost any relationship.
Apologize and Admit Mistakes
Time for a much-needed clearing of the air with Dad . . . or your kids? Few things have the power to repair the bonds of a relationship more than a simple apology. Admitting we screwed up, and taking ownership and responsibility for a mistake, breach of trust, or an omission—and telling someone we love that we’re genuinely sorry—can turn a bad situation into an opportunity for newfound trust and closeness.
Apologizing is also a powerful way to initiate a long-overdue conversation about something we’ve avoided. Summoning the courage to bring up a tough issue with an “I owe you an apology, Dad” opens the doors of communication about sensitive issues that need sorting out. Taking the lead in this way establishes a new standard of safety, humility, and openness that lasts long into the future.
Have Real Conversations in Caring, Respectful Tones
Most of us avoid conflict. Issues between dads and their kids can get swept under the rug, sometimes for years—sometimes forever. We can become so accustomed to the elephant in the room that we don’t even know it’s there anymore. And yet, these issues can grow into problems that have a profoundly negative effect on our family relationships. Having a real conversation is a bond-strengthening opportunity. This doesn’t mean brutal, self-righteous, or arrogant honesty. Hitting people over the head with “the truth” or beating them up with blame and criticism only puts them back on their heels, feeling attacked and defensive. Direct, forthright communication, on the other hand, can free up our relationships to flourish and grow.
Real conversations may be fierce and passionate. When tempered with respect and caring, however; and free of shame, blame, or projection (of our own insecurities and shortcomings), they serve to deepen the relationships between dads and kids. The dividends we reap when we learn how to communicate our innermost thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires are immeasurable and pay off in spades when it comes to trust and intimacy. Families that possess confidence in knowing that difficult issues can be brought up and discussed in such a way that deepens love, trust, understanding, and joy are a blessing in all of our lives.
Cultivate a Patient and Generous Heart
Giving of oneself, and demonstrating a genuine concern for someone else’s well-being (without expecting anything in return) allows relationships of every kind (including those with perfect strangers) to grow roots and sprout new branches. Simple acts of kindness are available to each of us literally hundreds of times each day—and especially on Father’s Day. Cultivating a patient, generous, and grateful heart means training yourself to recognize and capitalize on opportunities to spread love rather than anger, frustration, resentment, disappointment, and stress.
Lighten Up: Breathe, and Allow Yourself to Love and Be Loved
Getting in “game shape” for love this Father’s Day and the rest of your life means opening your emotional heart to those who have earned your trust. Letting your guard down, lowering your defenses, taking a deep breath, and softening your heart will help you graciously receive the love others have for you . . . and allow you to be the best, most loving version of yourself.
Here’s wishing you and yours a loving and joyful Father’s Day!