Being around my dad stresses me out
Having a stressful relationship with a parent can negatively impact one’s mental health and overall wellbeing. However, there are constructive ways to manage the situation.
Understanding the reasons behind the stress
When being around dad leads to feelings of stress, it helps to reflect on the potential reasons why. Here are some common causes:
Differing personalities and communication styles
- Fathers and children sometimes have very different personalities and habits. For example, one may be more introverted while the other more extroverted. These mismatches can lead to tensions.
- Communication styles also tend to differ across generations. For instance, parents may be more direct while children prefer indirect conversations. Such differences make understanding each other difficult.
Unresolved childhood issues
- Stress in the parent-child relationship often originates from unresolved issues in childhood. Common examples include divorce, absent fathers, excessive or lack of discipline, neglect, high parental expectations, or comparing siblings.
- These painful issues continue influencing the dynamic between father and child even into adulthood in subtle ways until consciously addressed.
Current lifestyle differences
- Fathers and children sometimes disapprove of or feel disappointed with each other’s lifestyle choices when these seem irresponsible or too unconventional. Examples include issues with things like money management, bad relationships, under-or-unemployment, rule-breaking and more.
- Such lifestyle differences negatively impact mutual trust and respect between father and child, even though the child is already an autonomous adult.
Tips to manage the stress
While we cannot force relationships to be something they currently are not, we can take ownership of our personal response to find some relief. Some effective coping tips include:
- Learn to express feelings and needs calmly without accusations. For example, use factual “I feel” statements focused on behaviors not character.
- Actively listen too without interrupting. Seek first to understand by asking clarifying questions non-defensively even if you disagree.
- You can choose to limit time spent in stressful situations that trigger unhelpful dynamics. It is healthy to take breaks amidst family tension.
- If your father frequently oversteps, establish and enforce clear boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior towards you. Stand up calmly for yourself.
Adjust Your Perspective
- Stress can be reduced by becoming consciously aware of, and then adjusting, our core assumptions and expectations, as they drive emotions.
- Radically accept the parent with realistic maturity instead of wishing for different. Focus on current role as adult child instead of past hurts.
Focus On Self-Care
- Make sure to do sufficient self-care to equip you to better handle relationship stress when unavoidable. Self-care helps bolster wellbeing and resilience when facing difficulties. Examples include enough rest, exercise, supportive relationships, enjoyable hobbies, etc.
When outside help is needed
In many complex and high-stress parental relationships, outside support often becomes needed to supplement one’s own efforts. Some options to consider are:
Counseling and Therapy
- Speaking with a professional third-party counselor individually about the relationship can illuminate blindspots and provide coping techniques tailored to you.
- Consider a joint counseling effort. It can walk both parties through issues at hand with compassion and wisdom leading to reconciliation.
- Peer support groups exist to assist those undergoing major family or relationship troubles. They provide both advice and accountability from others facing similar journeys. It helps alleviate feeling alone.
- Groups focused specifically around toxic parents, absentee fathers, narcissistic relatives, etc can directly address causes of parent-child tension with feedback from peers who deeply understand.
Temporary contact reduction
- In extreme cases where contact with the stressful parent severely worsens wellbeing or mental health symptoms without signs of resolution, consider reducing contact for a set period of time.
- This break can allow space for internal healing and closure before commencing contact again with renewed boundaries and a level of emotional protection.
Having a stressful parent-child dynamic that engenders tension instead of comfort is an unpleasant position to be in, but know that constructive options exist. Seek first to understand the reasons behind the current issues through self-reflection. Apply methods outlined here to manage the situation on your terms. Should that fail, outside support can prove invaluable offering protection and direction when reconciling the relationship with your father. Prioritize self-care with enforced boundaries, and know that distance is occasionally needed as well between hard seasons. With time and concerted effort, a healthier relationship can often emerge.