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When You Don’t Want to Celebrate Father’s Day! 3 Ways to Handle Father’s Day

A young woman is sitting on her bed in her bedroom. She had her chin resting on her hands as she looks to the side.

When You Don’t Want to Celebrate Father’s Day! 3 Ways to Handle Father’s Day

A young woman is sitting on her bed in her bedroom. She had her chin resting on her hands as she looks to the side.

Whether due to the loss of a father, a strained relationship, or other personal reasons, not everyone feels like celebrating Father’s Day. Unfortunately, it can be difficult at times to opt out of events and traditions that are (or seem to be) all around us. You may even have people around you who try to encourage you to celebrate when you don’t want to.

It’s important to acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing and understand that it’s okay to process and address them in a way that feels right for you. You have every right to determine what is best for your situation and advocate for yourself. Even if you feel conflicted about Father’s Day and aren’t really sure what is best for you, you have the right to be of two minds, to take a step back, and to make the call that feels closest to being right, even if you wish you could feel more certain.

The Stress of Father’s Day

For those who find Father’s Day challenging, the lead-up to the holiday can be particularly stressful. Social media, advertisements, and conversations can constantly remind you of the day, potentially intensifying feelings of sadness, anxiety, or resentment. This stress can manifest in various ways, such as difficulty sleeping, irritability, or a sense of isolation. Understanding the root of these emotions is a crucial step in managing them effectively. Remember, feeling this way is perfectly valid, and you’re not alone in your experience.

3 Ways to Handle Father’s Day

1) Create New Traditions:

A young African American woman is at a spa laying down. She is wrapped in a blanket as she has a face mask being put on her face.

If the traditional celebrations of Father’s Day are painful or feel irrelevant, consider creating new traditions that bring you comfort and joy. This could involve engaging in activities that you enjoy, spending time with supportive friends or family members, or dedicating the day to self-care. Creating new traditions allows you to take control of the day and shape it in a way that feels more positive and fulfilling. Recruit people to your cause by inviting them to support you; you may also know of someone who is in a similar boat to you who you could help by joining together to create new memories.

Consider what kind of scale you feel suits you best. You might want to use this day to do something you consider to be a once-per-year type activity, such as visiting a nearby national park, amusement park, or some other larger-scale attraction. Keep in mind that these places may be filled with Father’s Day celebrants, and think seriously about how you would feel about that. This can become an annual tradition for you if you would like; you are also well within your rights to decide that you would like to create an annual event and then change your mind next year. What matters is that you honor yourself and your needs at the time.

If self-care is more your speed, you might wish to do that on your own or with a friend or family member, or a little of each. Think about what will make you feel best. Is this a good day for a balance of chores, rest, and fun? Do you want to take some time to yourself and then get together with a loved one for some emotional camaraderie? How does self-care work and look for you? This might be a good opportunity to let someone else pamper you, perhaps with a massage, facial, or pedicure. It might also be a day when you wish to wear your pajamas, order your favorite takeaway, and watch a comfort film. If your instinct is the latter, that is fine! Just make sure that you hydrate and nourish yourself enough, and try moving your body in some way before having a nice long shower and changing into fresh pajamas. Open the blinds for some of the day. There is a difference between relaxing and bed rotting; one makes you feel much better than the other.

Depending on how intertwined your lifestyle and your relationship is with your father, you might have a hard time coming up with traditions that don’t remind you of him. If you wish, you may want to set aside time to honor his memory and pay tribute to him if you have lost him and are missing him. You might feel that anything you choose to do is still about him if you’re actively subverting memories of him, so this can be one way of facing that truth and accepting it. One way to deal with conflicted feelings is through mindful meditation. In meditation, thoughts arise, and we take note of them without judging them. Through this practice, you can develop an ability to think of someone or something but then let that thought drift away. You might also want to connect with a therapist to help you reduce and eliminate triggers and adjust your reactions to them. Whether you utilize in-person or online anxiety therapy, you have the option of connecting with a mental health professional who can help you identify thoughts and feelings about your father and apply tools that can change your response to them. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one method of recognizing thoughts and feelings, identifying which actions and behaviors typically follow, and making changes to those patterns.

However your traditions look, what matters is that you consider what you want to do and honor what you discover. Prepare in advance if you can; make sure you already have the items you want and need in the house. Try to get a good sleep the night before. Take care of chores and errands early as well, where possible. Waking up on Father’s Day with everything you need in place is a great way to set yourself up for a relaxing day at least and an amazing day at best!

2) Acknowledge and Express Your Feelings:

A man is writing in a notebook that is on his desk. In front of him is his open laptop. He has a watch on his hand as he writes.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to express them. Bottling up emotions can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Consider journaling about your thoughts, talking to a trusted friend, or seeking support from a therapist. Expressing your feelings can be incredibly cathartic and can help you process complex emotions.

You may experience fear and nervousness about expressing your feelings. In many of my Woodland Hills anxiety therapy sessions, people talk about their worries about hurting others’ feelings, of being vulnerable, of taking the risk to communicate and having that information rejected in some way, and more. It can be good practice to journal, where you are expressing your thoughts to yourself and don’t feel the need to censor what you are saying.

As much as we must all work to be our own cheerleaders, everyone can also use validation and support. Who do you have in your life that you can confide in? When you sit down to talk to a trusted friend about your feelings, you empower yourself to have another level of acceptance. Consider asking your friend if they have time and space to talk to you about your feelings about your father and choosing a time that works for you both. Maybe you talk on the phone, or maybe you get together in person to sit together somewhere private or go for a walk.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are essentially a celebration of parenting. If you feel that you weren’t parented in ways that nurtured and supported you, you may experience resentment about being pressured to commemorate Father’s Day. Old memories might be stirred up as you reflect on your history with your father; he may have raised you or been absent. Acknowledging that your inner child still needs protection and validation can be a great way of honoring your past and helping yourself now. Healing and connecting with your inner child can happen in a variety of ways, from revisiting childhood hobbies and interests to therapeutic methods. No matter how long it has been since you were a child, you may need to express how you feel about your childhood. Give yourself permission. Give yourself space and grace.

If your father has been absent from your life, you may be used to not celebrating this day but still find it challenging. Or, this year might be extra hard for some reason, like other stressors piling up, or the loss of the parent who raised you. Your instinct might be to feel annoyed or embarrassed that someone you have worked to move through life without is suddenly on your mind and heart. Take time to speak kindly to yourself. No matter what the reason or the season, if you are struggling with something, your feelings are valid and you deserve to care for yourself and work through them. This process always begins with acknowledging your feelings, followed by acceptance. Only with honesty and awareness can we effectively work on issues and situations.

3) Set Boundaries:

A father and daughter are sitting together outside at a cafe. They are both drinking coffee and smiling at one another.

Setting boundaries is essential, especially if you’re feeling pressured to participate in Father’s Day activities that you’re not comfortable with. It’s okay to decline invitations or explain to loved ones that you need to spend the day differently. Communicating your needs assertively and respectfully can help reduce feelings of obligation and guilt. We talk a lot about boundaries with our patients who see us for anxiety therapy in Woodland Hills. Saying ‘no’ is a stressor for many people, and that can be exacerbated if you are being pressured by your siblings to participate or if you have trouble setting boundaries with your mother, father, or both parents. If your parents are still together, it might be your mom who is more vocal about planning something for your dad.

In order to effectively set boundaries, you must first set them with yourself. This process includes considering what your boundaries are without judgment of yourself. Being honest with yourself about your own boundaries can be harder than it seems. You may think of certain situations where you’d like to bend a little, compromise, or drop a boundary. We all want to be flexible and accommodating sometimes because we want to help and be kind to others. When it comes to your boundaries, you are actually doing kindness to the people around you by knowing what they are, communicating with them, and sticking to them. This helps everyone support and show respect to you the same way you would do for them.

Practice your boundaries on your own. Some of them are solely for you, like limiting social media use on Father’s Day. When you are home alone, practice saying you’d like to change the subject or talking to someone close to you about why you have to decline an invitation. Talking it out might help you find your words and reasoning and can also make you comfortable and familiar with what you will say. In a perfect world, you won’t get any pushback about the boundaries you set. And you don’t actually have any obligation to explain in detail why you have the boundaries you have. “I would be more comfortable with…” is a perfectly adequate way to communicate. But no matter how you choose to communicate about your boundaries, being familiar with them and your reasoning can help you feel confident about doing so.

While you will have some very non-negotiable boundaries, some may be a little uncertain for you until you experience them. That is a normal part of the process and is to be expected. For example, you might think that a little bit of conversation about your father is okay; in this case, you would say that you can chat about him a little, but you don’t want to talk about him all afternoon. If you reach your limit more quickly than you anticipated, you have every right to say that you’re uncomfortable having a conversation about that and ask for it to change.

If your boundary is that you don’t want to see your father or acknowledge Father’s Day in any way, then that is your choice. You are the person who will be spending the day in your mind and body and the days afterward as well. Self-care can’t be perfect, but it can be consistent. Part of self-care is setting yourself up for success. Saying ‘no’ to things that will fatigue, depress, stress, strain, or hurt you in any way is a great way to take care of yourself.

A biracial young woman is sitting on the couch in her living room. She is covered by a blanket as she reads a book and drinks her coffee.

The complexities of family and coping with parental dynamics are two things I hear a lot about as an anxiety counselor in Woodland Hills. Every family is different, and your needs within your family are your own, but there are common themes that emerge in these stories and lots of different treatment methods to try. If Father’s Day is difficult for you, you are not alone. You deserve to find a way to get through the day in a way that works for you. You deserve the support you need, wherever you get it from and however it facilitates your wellness.

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When you seek Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, you won’t just learn how to manage your anxiety, worry and stress, but also identify how to communicate better and set healthier boudnaries so that the relationships in your life don’t feed into the anxiety and stress. 

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