With the holiday season officially underway, we know that pressures mount during this time of year like none other. It’s the excessive demands and numerous expectations, needs, and schedules that push all of us past our normal capacity. This is the perfect setup for what I call, “relational collisions.”
And yes, as a dad you carry weight on your shoulders that your kids know nothing about (end-of-year deadlines, extra expenses, challenging family dynamics, and so on.). Yet the truth is that your child has circumstances that overwhelm too. So if you want to grow closer to your child this holiday season, here’s your survival guide.
I’ll start by sharing what most dads typically “hate” from children, followed by practical suggestions about how to respond so that your relationship is strengthened over this next month.
3 things that overwhelm most kids (and how to address them):
This is a BIG one for dads, especially when you step in to defend mom when your child isn’t respecting her. Things can escalate quickly. The truth is that you’re simply trying to de-escalate the situation for everyone, yet you suddenly become “the bad guy.” Then you feel attacked, unsupported, underappreciated, and alone.
Strategy: If you weren’t there for the whole interaction, and your child accuses you of taking everyone else’s side, it’s important to listen as your child explains. I know this is easier said than done, but the book of Proverbs has a good solution: A soft answer turns away anger. That’s your solution to win the war. Lead by example and soften your tone. Don’t use anger to deal with anger. Model what respect looks like no matter what. Give yourself a time out to collect your thoughts while remembering that there’s always a solution and this doesn’t need to be the mountain you die on. You’ll always benefit from coming back later when the air clears with less chance of saying something you’ll regret.
There’s nothing harder than seeing your relationship disintegrate as conflict intensifies between you, and your child rises to challenge you. That’s when it’s difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to stand upright and steady when the blasts come. Sometimes it may even seem like your child is forgetting or walking away from the way you raised him or her.
Strategy: Instead of interpreting your child’s responses as a personal rejection, seek to understand your kid’s position more than your own. Take time to explore what your child is saying and feeling. Ask more questions than ever before as you hold to the truth that disagreements are not necessarily negative, but can be a place where growth happens. The beliefs and opinions of your child today probably won’t be forever. Be honest in letting your child know that you’re struggling to figure something out but want to grow in being a good dad.
I talk to a lot of dads about how much their hearts hurt due to distance from their kids. Sometimes the distance is tied to divorce. Other times it’s that your child may be making poor choices and doesn’t want you to be disappointed. Regardless, there’s no upside to distance.
Strategy: Don’t lose heart during the seasons when your child is silent. It’s excruciating to wait when you long to be close. I suggest two things:
Write a list of prayers for your child during this time.
Write in a journal that you’ll give when the door is open again where you share thoughts, memories, wishes, and affirmations.
There you have it. Three practical strategies for navigating this holiday season so you can powerfully end the year with your child.
Portions of this post originally appeared on Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s Blog.