Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

What about Father’s day for fathers of estranged adult children?

by Sheri McGregor

fathers of estranged adult childrenI’ve asked dads and the people who care about them how they feel. Most of the fathers told me, “It’s just another day.” They blow off the holiday as if it doesn’t bother them at all. But there may be more to the story.

One father of an estranged adult son told me the holiday itself is no issue. “It’s going back to work on Monday that makes me sad,” he said. “Invariably, co-workers tell stories of what their children did for them. And there I am with nothing to say.”

So, what helps?

For fathers of estranged adult children on Father’s Day:

Recognize that feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration may lurk beneath the surface. The glad tales of other fathers can bring them up.

Before Father’s Day, figure out what you need. Then honor those feelings – – even if that means telling other children or your spouse what you really want for Father’s Day.

Plan ahead for the days after the holiday too. If you’re bothered by other dads’ happy Father’s Day tales, have a ready reply. A variation of the following is one way to excuse yourself: “That’s great. I wish I could talk but I’ve got a deadline right now.” An exit plan can help you feel prepared. Sure, this is avoidance, but sometimes removing yourself is the easiest, most self-supportive plan of action – – and it honors you and your feelings.

If you do want to talk, figure out who you’ll confide in. A supportive spouse, a friend who won’t judge you, a trained professional. . . .  Sometimes pets, with their unconditional love, make the best listeners. You could share your thoughts and feelings with God, talk it out to yourself while driving in the car, or speak into a smart phone’s memo app. Consider writing a letter to your estranged child if it helps (you don’t have to send it).

If your spouse asks you how you feel, realize they mean well – – even if you don’t want to talk. A simple thank you, and an assurance that you’re fine can go a long way.  

If you’re a person who isn’t into most any holiday, be aware of any generalized negative feelings about the day tugging at you. Those feelings could mix with negative thoughts about your situation as a the father of an estranged adult and bring you down.

For the people who love fathers of estranged adult children:

Again, recognize that unsettling feelings may lurk beneath the surface. And be cognizant of the days after the holiday, too. Father’s Day for the fathers of estranged adult children in our lives may be easy to get through happily. Then they come home in a foul mood on Monday (connect the dots).

Honor his feelings, let him share if he wants, but perhaps don’t press. If he wants to talk, he will. If he doesn’t, providing support and demonstrating love in quieter ways may help. One wife put it this way: “For the two years our son has been estranged, I’ve always asked my husband if he’s okay. And he always says he’s fine. Maybe it hurts me more than him, or maybe he just doesn’t want to burden me. So, this year again, I’ll pick up ribs from his favorite barbecue place. Then I’ll watch his favorite Westerns on Netflix with him.” Favorite foods, ample space to do as he wishes, and a few kind words about what a great man he is may be best.

A positive attitude.

Really, in all of the responses I received from fathers of estranged adult children about the day, the consensus is right: Father’s Day comes and goes. You get through it. Life goes on.

Related articles:

Holidays: How to manage them

Mother’s Day when your adult child is estranged

History of Father’s Day (outbound link)

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5 thoughts on “Father’s Day for fathers of estranged adult children

  1. Jack

    My daughter got married on June 17th 2017 on her father in law birthday, My Ex wife which is my daughter’s mom Birthday is June 18th. My daughter spends father’s day with the in law and birthday with her mom. Never see my daughter on Father’s Day! We are now estranged of this year with two grandkids.

  2. John

    My son ghosts me most of the time – long periods between texts, no response about my 3 grandsons, no sharing of his good news that I long to hear. I call but no answer, no call back, no nothing. Those grandsons adore my wife (not their grandmother by blood). They are ages 4 to 8, innocent, but I can’t help suspect they are slowly being turned against us. I want to lash out but keep it inside for the outside chance that it will all change and we will be invited to their next ballgame, birthday, whatever. I’m really sad after reading some of these rejections, realizing that I should walk away, look out for myself and my wife but then I get really sad to think that the son I once was close to may never speak to me again.

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear John,

      IF the time comes for you to walk away, you will have support. Meanwhile, you can take care of yourself and your wife in between, in the quiet times. You can make some plans for yourselves, concentrate on the beauty in your life, the rewarding parts and pursuits. Don’t let him steal your energy.

      Hugs to you and your wife,
      Sheri McGregor

  3. Frances R.

    For 4 years now, my brother who has an estranged son (my only nephew) spent Father’s Day with me and all other holidays. How sad, Robert saw his son a couple of weeks ago for about 1 hour after 2 1/2 years. I am sorry for everyone that is having problems of this nature and it breaks my heart to see how much suffering it brings.


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