Father’s Day is recognized in over 40 countries and has since the Middle Ages. In the U.S., the third Sunday in June is always designated as the one day in the year where we put all of our energy into celebrating dear old Dad. Except Father’s Day isn’t always a happy one for many of us.
Some fathers have deliberately decided not to be a part of our lives, while others are physically there, but are pathologically distant. Factors such as systemic injustice in the criminal justice system, or drug and alcohol abuse has caused fractured relationships between Black fathers and children for generations.
Even as adults, it’s possible to find a way to cope with what may be a very painful time of year and discover the tools needed to heal those fractured relationships between children and their estranged fathers and vice-versa. It’s not too late for fathers to take the necessary steps to get closer to their children.
TheGrio spoke to licensed psychotherapist, Andrea Wise-Brown, who specializes in working on family issues and says the process won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
TheGrio: What are some ways that adult children can initiate a new relationship with their estranged father?
Andrea Wise-Brown: I work with people on accepting being open and honest. Ask questions, “What’s your experience, Dad and why am I experiencing you in this way?” Perception is everything. Let go of your ego. Reach out and start the discussion. That shows emotional maturity. Take accountability for yourself, and don’t personalize his response, if he doesn’t answer or respond right away. Separate your hurt from his reality because a lot of times, men become shameful and feel guilty.
TheGrio: How can adult children broach the idea of therapy with their estranged father?
Wise-Brown: Just talk about it without judgement, but with empathy and the intention of reconnection by saying, “Dad, maybe we should talk to someone without bias to help us.” There is power in love and connection.
TheGrio: What about coping strategies for those who find Father’s Day difficult?
Wise-Brown: Go to therapy or at least go to someone and talk about it. Just remember, not everyone around you will know what to do with your feelings. Unlike friends and family members, a therapist is non-biased.
TheGrio: How can dads who aren’t close to their children begin to repair that relationship?
Wise-Brown: Dads must look at themselves. They have a story too. Dads can become very defensive and very hurt. A lot of times, they may have allowed the mother to break the bond. Still, they have to take accountability for the role they played in allowing the bond with their children to be broken.
I have a five step system that dads can use to reconnect with their adult children:
- Validate your children. You have created a king or queen. Let them know they are kings and queens. Tell them the things that are special and unique about them, as you know it.
- Be trustworthy. Don’t say that you are going to do something, and then don’t do it. Come through on your promises. This teaches your children that you are strong and stable.
- Teach your children. Share age-appropriate stories of your mistakes and successes in life. This helps you be someone that they can relate to and see themselves in.
- Ask questions about their lives. Show some empathy. Get to know your children.
- Have fun. Create new memories through new experiences.
TheGrio: What are some ways people can begin to forgive their dads?
Wise-Brown: Forgiveness is not about accepting behavior. It’s not about telling someone ‘I get it.’ Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that something should be different than what it is. Forgiveness is accepting what is. When a connection is lost, we often become bitter, angry and resentful. We can let that go through acceptance. Accept your father for who he is, and then try to move forward.
Andrea Wise-Brown is a licensed psychotherapist who provides counseling to clients using research-based therapy. Wise-Brown has appeared as relationship expert on OWN, Sway in the Morning, as well as the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Follow her on social media @awisebrown. Biba Adams is a Detroit-based writer whose work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, AllHipHop.com, and Revolt. She is a devoted hip-hop fan, community educator, and dog mom. Follow her on social media @BibatheDiva.