NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Looking Back on Your Relationship With Your Dad Now That You're a Father

How many times did you hear these words from your father, "You'll understand after you have children"? At the time when your father told you this, you probably felt annoyed and frustrated with him.  But now that you have your own children, you might have a different perspective.

Looking Back on Your Relationship With Your Dad Now That You're a Father

Looking Back on Your Relationship With Your Father
Although it may be hard to admit, looking back on things our parents said to us when we were growing up that was annoying to us back then often makes a lot of sense now.  This is often especially true after you have your own children.  Since I'm focusing on a series of blog articles about fathers, my focus will be on fathers and sons in this article but, of course, women can relate to this too.

When boys become teenagers it's common for them to have a contentious relationship with their fathers.  Being neither a young child nor an adult, being a teenager can be confusing and frustrating for the teenage boy as well as his father.  It can be a time when the father-son relationship becomes strained.

Often, after men get married and have their own children, they gain a new perspective about what it means to be a father.  And, the same men who rebelled against their fathers when they were teens often come to have a new appreciation for the complexities of fatherhood.  They usually develop more of a sense of compassion for their fathers than they had when they were younger.

The following vignette is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

When John was a young child, he and his father had a close relationship.  But when he became 15, his relationship with his father became strained.

John wanted to go stay out late with his friends, but his father gave him a curfew of 10 PM, which John resented.  He had other friends whose parents allowed him to stay out later than 11 PM, and John felt resentful towards his father.

From John's perspective, his father was treating him like a baby.  He couldn't wait to be old enough to leave home and go to college.  His father would usually tell him, "You'll understand after you have children of your own."   Whenever John heard this, he would roll his eyes.

When John Was 15, He Often Felt Annoyed With His Father

Years later, when John and his wife had their own teenage son, John realized why his father was so worried about him when he went out.  John's son, Joe, also wanted to stay out late with his friends when he was 15.

But, now that he was a parent, John was very aware of all of the dangers that were out there that his son brushed off.  He also knew what it was like to be 15 and to feel hemmed in by your father.  On the one hand, he wanted his son to have a good time and not resent him.  On the other hand, he knew that Joe lacked the maturity to make good decisions for himself and there was reason to be concerned about his safety.

John gave Joe a curfew knowing that Joe would resent it and that, possibly, Joe would rebel against it.  But John knew that, in the long run, he was doing what was best for his son, even though Joe couldn't appreciate it at the time.

Having to deal with these issues with his own teenage son, John now had a new perspective and appreciation for what it was like for his father back when John was a teen.  He felt a new sense of compassion and love for his father.  He realized now that his father was setting limits for him because he loved him and not because he wanted to be mean, which is what John thought when he was a teenager.

Looking back on his relationship with his father, John realized that many of the things he didn't understand with regard to his father's decisions were much clearer to him now that he had to face many of the same decisions.  So, the next time he called his father, John told him, "I hate to admit it, dad, but you were right.  Now that I have my own son, I understand what you went through as a father."

Being able to talk to his father as one father to another made John feel closer to his father than he had ever experienced before.  From then on, he sought advice from his father about raising children because he realized now that his father really was a loving dad.  And, he was glad his father didn't just allow him to do whatever he wanted to do like his friends' fathers.  He could look back now and appreciate that.

Looking Back on Your Relationship With Your Father With a New Understanding
With maturity and life experience, sons often look back on their relationships with their fathers with a new sense of gratitude and compassion.  Going through this process can bring you and your father closer together.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To  set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also see:  Fathers and Sons: Improving Your Relationship With Your Dad