My dad and I could not be more different, which has caused us to not see eye to eye from time to time. During one of those times, a good family friend suddenly passed away. Unfortunately, it seems that often when tragedy hits we are reminded of how fragile life really is and we begin to not take our family members for granted. Knowing how big of a loss this would be for my dad, I immediately drove from DC to Atlanta, which is about a 10 hour drive by myself. Even though my dad can sometimes be stubborn and may not always be the first to admit when he’s wrong, it felt like the right choice for me to support him and also honor our friend. Although I was supportive, I did not shy away from expressing my feelings either. Even though it was an emotional time, I felt it was the perfect time to drive home the point of keeping the lines of communication open and working to be consistent with staying in touch. We were both able to express our points of views and clear up misunderstandings. Here are a few things I’ve learned on how to improve your relationship with your dad:
- Put yourself in your dad’s shoes. Consider his personality and temperament, and look at the way he thinks. Look at his own experience of growing up, and how that has informed how he operates in the world. When you come to know you’re parent as a person who has their ups and downs, strengths and shortcomings, it allows you to be more compassionate and have a better understanding of them and the choices they have made.
- Take an interest in something he likes. People naturally love to talk about themselves and their interests. If your dad likes baseball, go to a baseball game, even if you don’t like baseball. Potentially, it could be a great bonding experience and you learn something new about your dad and whatever his interest is. Hopefully, he will in turn inquire about your interests.
- Accept him, but set limits. It took me a long time to accept that my dad is who he is, which means I don’t have to like or agree with everything he does, but I can accept him as he is. I cannot try to change him. I have cultivated enough information about him that has taught me how I can interact with him and more importantly how to set healthy boundaries so that I don’t left feeling guilty or disappointed or upset.
Father-daughter relationships can be tough to navigate and can be fraught with heavy emotions depending on your family history. For me, setting boundaries and teaching my dad on how I want to be treated was key. Its an ongoing process and takes practice. Don Miguel Ruiz’ book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a great, quick read and can help you reframe interpersonal issues, even your relationship with your dad.
If you’re having issues with getting along with your dad, I can help.