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Father and daughter together baking

Father’s Day can be a time of love or anxiety, depending on your relationship with your dad.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23.6 percent of American children grow up without fathers in their household, so it’s no surprise that many people dread Father’s Day as a reminder of their childhood.

Jennifer Harsh, the director of behavioral medicine for general internal medicine at the University of Nebraska, revealed to different ways to handle difficult family members to make navigating holidays a little easier.

She explains that if you have an unhealthy relationship with your parents, you have to set boundaries to make sure you remain comfortable in situations with them. Harsh recommends setting those mental boundaries before you even step into the room.

“If beforehand we think about it, we can actually respond instead of react,” she says.

She also recommends having an ally so you can vent about the emotions to a trusted person. “It’s really useful to have somebody in our lives, whether it’s our partner or our friends, that we can talk to about our feelings surrounding these interactions,” she said.

Focusing on the positive is also important. We all have imperfectly perfect families.

“Family relationships – maybe they’re not perfect and maybe they’re not great – but there is usually something that you can find that you like about a relationship or that you feel good about,” Harsh said.

If you’re on the other side of the coin, where you are no longer connected to your parent or your parent is deceased, creating new memories can be very helpful.

“Some people might go to brunch with their partner at a place that they used to really like to go to with their family,” she said.

Whatever your situation is, finding a way to make sentimental holidays your own is the best way to cope with those awkward or sad days.


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Papa Was A Rolling Stone: How To Navigate Difficult Relationships On Father’s Day was originally published on

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