Father’s Day is meant to be a time to celebrate our dads and thank them for all they have done for us, but what if your relationship is far from perfect? If this is the case, you may take some solace in the fact that you are not alone.
A recent study of over 16s in the UK by Relate, Marriage Care and Relationships Scotland* found that 71% of people whose parents have separated said they have a good relationship with their mum, whereas 57% had a good relationship with their dad. For parents who remain together, the difference was less marked – 78% had a good relationship with their mums and 72% had a good relationship with their dads.
Ellaine Cameron, Relate Gloucestershire and Swindon’s CEO believes there are likely to be many complex reasons for this difference in relationships with dads post separation. She said:
“Relationship breakdown is difficult for everyone involved especially if intense emotions such as guilt or anger are not managed or dealt with. In our culture it is more common for children to continue living with the parent who stays at home or works the least in order to minimalise the affect a separation has on their routine which, especially in the past, has mostly been the mother. This may feel that there is a greater distance between children and the parent not living at home which in turn can impact on communication.
The survey was based on people aged 16 and over so will not necessarily reflect the current post-break up arrangement of younger families but it does highlight that if a relationship between a father and child has been affected by a separation in the past this could have been further affected by cultural influences which have spiralled over time”.
Kimberley Wall, Service Development Manager of Relate Gloucestershire and Swindon adds that Father’s Day might be the catalyst for change;
“If someone doesn’t get on with their dad then Father’s Day may become a painful reminder of that. However, as long as both parties don’t just focus on who is to ‘blame’, recognise that many different variables influenced their journey and are motivated to improve the relationship – there is no reason why the relationship cannot be (re) strengthened at this time of year.
On the other hand if one person in the relationship does not want to improve relations this can also be a tough decision to accept but sometimes the first step of accepting loss and moving forward is knowing that you tried but the option wasn’t available to you”.
Relate Gloucestershire and Swindon offer some tips for improving your relationship with your dad;
· – Talk to your dad – don’t leave it to just once a year to tell him how much he means to you, how important he is to you, how much you still need him and value time with him.
· – Your dad might believe he has done the best thing for you by minimalising contact or may not have the skills to approach the subject with you but alternatively he might not desire a close relationship. Good relationships are a two way process so remember that this needs effort from both sides and it shouldn’t just be you doing all the running.
· – If you’ve lost touch or fallen out with your dad, then Father’s Day might be a good time to try to rekindle the relationship. You and your dad may decide on Family Counselling in order to discuss your relationship and conflict that won’t shift. This may be the environment you need in order to both feel ‘heard’.
· – It’s easy to become caught up in your parents’ separation and feel that you have to side with one person but remember you have every right to maintain a relationship with them both.
· – Write dad (or your estranged child) a letter. Sometimes, especially after a significant period of time, our mind can fill in the gaps with inaccurate knowledge so you may believe your dad (or child) does not want to hear from you when they do. An element of shyness may also affect your confidence so maybe putting your words on paper could reduce the first barrier of contact.
· – If your parents separated, maybe there’s still some resentment there. If so, consider talking to a counsellor about your feelings. They can help you to find your own way forward and address any issues with your dad.
· – Good relationships are safe and healthy. In some cases, it may not be in your best interests to rekindle your relationship with your dad. Remember this is your choice to make and every situation is different.
Any family can come to Relate for help. It doesn’t matter what their size or how they are made up. Relate Gloucestershire and Swindon can help families understand and cope better with the stresses and strains of family life and get you all talking again, please call 01242 523215 for more information.