The past year has been an unusual one, to say the least. Lack of in-person schooling and quarantines due to the pandemic means you probably spent more time with your parents than you have in years. A recent Pew research study showed that a significant percentage of parents changed their work schedules in 2020 due to COVID.
The statistics show something interesting. Fathers cut back more than mothers. From September 2019 to September 2020, the average number of hours worked weekly by fathers of teens fell from 43.9 to 40.8 – about three hours per week. Mothers cut back, on average, about two hours per week.
And that’s just fathers who were employed. Meanwhile, some parents quit their jobs entirely. Estimates show this number is around 7 percent. Unfortunately, some lost their positions. Others decided to work the same number of hours—from home. In general, 65 percent of fathers said they adjusted their work schedules to focus on their kids.
All of this means the following: you might have spent more time with your dad in the past year than you have in your entire life.
Of course, there’s one important exception here. If your father is an essential worker, he probably worked more hours during COVID than ever before. We send our heartfelt appreciation to all the frontline workers who have been keeping everyone safe, healthy, fed, and cared for.
Let’s be honest. Frontline workers are heroes. If your dad is a frontline worker in any capacity, guess what?
Your dad is a hero.
We thank him profusely— and you should too!
Appreciating Dad More
Spending all this extra time with dad means you probably discovered new things about him. Perhaps you learned he can cook a gourmet lunch. Or that he has similar taste in ordering takeout. Or that his favorite music is way cooler than you thought.
During COVID, you might have watched him deliver a presentation or handle a work issue with a colleague. Maybe you learned that he sounds super professional when he talks to people at work and you thought wow – people actually respect him?! Or maybe you realized how stressful his job really is – which makes you appreciate all those times he’s come to soccer practice or went the extra mile for you after work hours.
Whatever you’ve discovered about your dad, hopefully it’s made you value him in a deeper way.
And this Father’s Day – more than all other years – is a chance to show him how much you appreciate what he does.
On the Other Hand…
Of course, some of you might be thinking that this doesn’t really apply to your dad.
There’s nothing to appreciate about my dad, you’re thinking.
He’s never home. And even when he is, he’s never proud of me.
My dad is never happy.
My dad is negative about everything.
And you know what? You may be right. Some kids have dads who don’t participate in their lives much. Some fathers prefer to go to the gym after work instead of hanging out with their teens. Some dads find it hard to talk to their kids.
And some teens have never even met their fathers!
If this sounds like your father, know that you’re not alone. According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children live without a dad in the home. That’s more than 18 million kids without a biological father, stepfather, or adoptive father.
To these children, or to those who lost their fathers, or never had a good relationship with their fathers, this day can bring up lots of emotions. Please know that all these feelings are completely valid. That means it’s okay to feel all those things.
Father’s Day 2021
When it comes to parents, all emotions are valid – even if they’re contradictory or confusing. You might be happy that your dad spent a lot of time with you over the past year but upset that he didn’t do it before. That’s valid. You might be annoyed that he’s sometimes harsh with you, but pleased when he commends you on a job well done. That’s valid. If your dad is currently out of the picture, it’s very normal to have mixed emotions about that, too: all valid.
In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), we call this dialectical thinking. The word “dialectical” means “acting through opposing forces.” It generally relates to tolerating two opposing thoughts at the same time and considering two opposing ideas in your mind simultaneously. For example, you can celebrate the moments your dad spends with you, even if you feel awkward about it. You can feel hurt that he works all the time and still happy when he puts down his phone and talks to you one-on-one.
Additionally, in DBT, teens are taught to put themselves in others’ shoes as a way of understanding and improving relationships.
Give your dad the benefit of the doubt: we bet he’s trying his best, like all of us here.
Thank You, Dad
One thing’s for sure: if you do have a dad, and he makes some time for you – even if it’s not as much as you wish – embrace it in any way you can.
This Father’s Day, do your best to thank him.
You don’t have to go all out with a fancy gift. Make a simple photo collage or his favorite meal. You can help him out with that gadget/tech issue he asked you for help with. We know, we know, you showed him how to take his photos off his iPhone a million times already. At the very least, you can get him a Father’s Day card.
In DBT, we learn that all or nothing thinking rarely matches reality. Life, learning, living, and growing are far more nuanced than that. If you wish him a Happy Father’s Day or give him a thoughtful gift, you can still be upset if he enforces curfew or takes away your iPhone the next week: that’s how parent-child relationships work. When you realize he’s a whole person with many different, complex parts – just like you – your relationship will be better for it.