With Father’s Day recently passing on June 19, 2011, it’s important to remember the benefits of a strong father-daughter relationship throughout the rest of the year. Improving any family relationships can only make you feel better emotionally and give you and your family members a better support system.
An article on the University of Michigan’s website stated that “people with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network.” Social support through family and friends has long been known to be helpful in coping with mental illness, recovering from emotional issues or sustaining good mental health. If you haven’t been as close with your family as you could be, why not start with your father after Father’s Day? Here is some of my advice, along with experts, for how to improve your relationship with your father while also reaping benefits emotionally.
One way to work on your relationship with your father throughout the year is to show him that you appreciate him. This is especially meaningful after you’ve already grown up and don’t rely on him financially anymore. He’s still available for emotional support in many cases, and you can tell him how much you appreciate that. You can even write a card thanking him if he helps you with anything significant to show your appreciation. Offer your own ear if he ever needs to talk to someone about issues he’s having or just wants to talk in general.
Acknowledge any issues you have with your father, but reinforce the fact that you love him anyway. A great resource for understanding unconditional love and improving relationships is the book Real Love that I’ve been reading by Greg Baer. The author stated that “Real Love is caring about the happiness of another person without any thought for what we might get for ourselves.” If your father has hurt you in the past, forgiveness is key, even if you can’t bring yourself to see him again. An article on Dr. Phil’s website stated that “Forgiveness is a choice. You say, 'I am going to exercise a conscious choice to forgive this man because I refuse to be locked in a bondage of hatred and resentment with him for the rest of my life.'" Forgiving and loving people can cause a sense of relief and joy, so practice it with more than your father.
Work on a project with your father. Besides spending time with him, you can find a special project to work on with him so you can have quality father-daughter time. This could range from a home improvement project or something as simple as a puzzle. You will both feel a sense of accomplishment after completing a project together, and you can have something specific to talk about during the bonding experience.
Offer to help around the house or yard, or wherever he needs help. Think of all he did to help you as a child, teenager and adult. Helping him can only give you the happiness that comes with any type of volunteer-like work. Plus, he might be getting older and needs the extra help, even if he’s too stubborn to ask for it.
Take the time to really get to know him. Ask about his past, any traditions and funny stories he neglected to tell you before. Dr. Phil’s website suggested rediscovering each other, stating “once you get to know your father better, you will have no unfinished emotional business, because you will start to view each other in a different way.” That might not be fully true, but generally when you understand how someone is raised and how he or she thinks, it could be easier to forgive them and accept them.
Have you tried having a closer relationship with your father? What were the results? Did your emotional and mental health improve with your better relationship? Share your stories below.
“Real Love” by Greg Baer
Reviewed June 22, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton