How To Tell Your Dad You Care On Father’s Day
In partnership with the Man Enough team, which is reimagining masculinity to help anchor men in their humanity and their capacity for connection with others, Braun believes there is no better time to start this work than around Father’s Day. Below are some ways to open a new dialogue with your dad.
How to Tell Dad You Love Him
The best Father’s Day gift is the simple phrase, “I love you, Dad.” However, saying those four short words isn’t always easy.
In his recent book Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity, actor and director Justin Baldoni writes, “I find myself...not letting [my Dad] completely in when I know he so badly wants to be. It’s like this invisible barrier of masculinity that I didn’t ask to be put up...yet somehow we are trapped behind it.”
Life circumstances may have offered us a range of critical male figures — from uncles and brothers who have been there over the years to mentors, coaches, and friends who have consistently provided support. Communicating how we feel about them can still be a tricky task.
Culture and media taught an older generation of men to lean away from their emotions and, instead, perform the role of Superman: to fix, provide, and offer a stoic front against hardship and change. Worse, as Justin points out, we often mirror that behavior back to our dads by keeping them at arm’s length.
“Thanks for all you’ve taught me.”
Part of being a dad is turning life events into “teachable” moments — the first fall from a tree, the first crush, the first shave. And at the core of those efforts is the desire to share lessons and traditions that will help their kids make their way in the world.
Acknowledging what we’ve learned from our dads can go a long way. Opening a conversation with your dad with phrases like, “Thanks for teaching me how to stay motivated” or “Thanks for showing me how to speak up for myself” will make him feel seen for the knowledge and life experiences he has succeeded in passing along to you.
“I really appreciate the gesture.”
When words fail them, dads show their affection in diverse ways. Some express it through their cooking. Some buy thoughtful gifts, such as a new wallet because yours is falling apart or an electric shaver to step up your shaving game. Others may even embed their love into tasks as routine as folding their children’s clothes.
Pay attention to those moments and acknowledge them for what they are: acts of care. Communicating our gratitude with a simple “I really appreciate that” is a sure way to deepen our connection with dads, regardless of whether their original gestures were big or small.
“There’s something I haven’t shared.”
The older we get, the easier it becomes to leave important things unsaid. And we tend to bottle up stories about past life events, especially if they’ve left us feeling less than okay.
You may think, “He can’t possibly understand.” But sharing our experiences is part of what binds us as families, as humans. Starting a conversation with “There’s something I haven’t shared” and telling dad about something you’ve struggled with in the past may connect you in new ways you’d never have expected.
More Tips for Showing Dad You Care
Bringing down the wall takes persistence. The wall will come down eventually, but we all must work at it brick by brick.
Many dads already fight against old stereotypes, believing that their role begins with the heart. Still, the cultural conditioning that interferes with their ability to communicate and receive love can be challenging to shake.
This is why we must ask ourselves questions, like:
• How am I holding back in this relationship?
• How can I be more open in this exchange?
• What do we gain if we’re able to be more open with each other?
We must also look for opportunities in our shared habits. For example, instead of a regularly shared activity with dad — TV, sports, games — we suggest asking, “Today, can we just talk instead?”
Let’s use this Father’s Day as an opportunity to tell our dads that we care. It will make them feel loved and affirmed while also reminding them of a critical message: They are enough. We are all enough.