Father’s Day is fast approaching, which means it’s time to think of sweet, poignant, and/or funny things to tell your dad or father figure so that he knows how much he’s loved and appreciated. Whether you plan to send a text, make a phone call, or meet up in person, consider this the perfect moment to make him feel special.
“Father’s Day is also a time to relay feelings you might not otherwise say,” Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. “There are plenty of child-father relationships where it is just implied that there is love, but Father’s Day is a time when those thoughts and feelings can be illuminated and brought to the forefront and actually said.” In other words: It’s a good time kick back on the couch (or on a Zoom call) and talk about childhood memories, all the things your dad has done for you over the years, and the various ways you appreciate him.
That said, it isn’t always easy to figure out what to say to your dad — especially if you two aren’t super close. If you have a strained relationship, don’t feel pressured to say too much — or even to reach out at all. While it might be tough to watch other people celebrate Father’s Day, you have to focus on what’s best for you.
Here, a variety of things to say to your dad on Father’s Day.
1. “Happy Father’s Day!”
To start off with the most obvious, you can always tell your dad “Happy Father’s day” via text or phone call. If you have plans to see each other later on, it’s the perfect way to kick off a great day. You can also send this message, and this message alone, and leave it at that.
“For some parents and grown children there’s just so much baggage that it’s hard to say, and to hear, any meaningful compliments,” psychotherapist Jacob Brown, MFT tells Bustle. So if you aren’t close but still want to acknowledge the day, this approach might be your best bet.
2. “Thanks, Dad.”
Sounds a little generic, but honestly? These two words really can mean a lot, especially if you two are close and you think about all the little things your dad does that often go unnoticed. Whether it’s showing up at your apartment with groceries, reminding you to change the oil in your car, or listening to you mull over your career choices for the 5,000th time, he definitely deserves some love.
3. “My favorite memory is...”
Is there a moment from the past that means a lot to you? If so, now’s your chance to let your dad know. “It’s fun and special to reminisce about happy times you’ve spent together as child and father,” clinical psychologist Dr. Tari Mack tells Bustle. “This will take you both back to happy times, which creates connection.”
It’s nice if you can get specific, too: For example, don’t just say you loved spending time with him as a kid, but how you loved when he drove you to tennis practice because it meant you got to listen to his favorite music together. Whatever it is, bring it up, reminisce, and tell him how much you cherish those memories.
4. “I really look up to the fact you [XYZ].”
Consider something you really admire about your dad and let him know it’s always been an inspiration, Schiff says. Do you look up to the way he handles himself under pressure? The way he’s always gone after his dreams? Or the fact that he’s super kind to everyone he meets? This is a nice way to acknowledge the amazing way your dad navigates life.
5. “Hey Dad, want to hang out today?”
Let your dad know that you’re happy to spend some quality time together, even if that just means meeting up for coffee or spending an afternoon watching baseball. “Any parent simply wants to spend more time with their children,” Schiff says. “Offer up plans to make sure you get plenty of bonding time with them.”
6. “What do you want to do today?”
You could also flip the script with this question. “Asking them what they want to do for Father’s Day is a true sign of showing that you are putting their needs, wants, and preferences first, which is important,” Schiff says. “As a parent, you most times have to put your children ahead of yourself.” That’s why this offer could come as a pleasant surprise, and it also gives your dad an opportunity to share something he’s interested in with the rest of the family.
7. “We really have a lot in common.”
If you and your dad struggled to bond when you were younger, it might be sweet to point out something you have in common now that you’re an adult. Often, similarities come with time, but it’s the ultimate bond when you do find one. Your dad will realize that sure, you share similar genetics, but also that there’s so much more to the relationship that truly makes you his child. As Mack says, “It will likely mean a lot to dad to know that you see some of his qualities in you and to know how you think the two of you are similar.”
8. “I never realized how much you did for me.”
If you have your own kids, a pet that takes up a ton of your time, or simply have had an epiphany, it could be cute to relate to your dad and bond over all the effort that goes into taking care of someone or something. “Having and raising children is hard work,” therapist Adam Paine, LCSW tells Bustle, and it often goes unacknowledged.
9. “Tell me about that time when...”
Unless you ask, you may miss out on hearing cool stories about what your dad was like before you were born. Plus, as you get older, your dad might be more willing to share “fun” tidbits from his heyday. Who knows? He could end up telling you about his travels, college parties, awkward first dates — all of which will help you see your dad in a whole new light.
Even if your dad isn’t the type of person to open up about personal stuff, he’ll likely share more about his interests if you give him the floor. It’ll also show that your relationship is shifting now that you’re an adult, which can be really special.
10. “My biggest wish for you is...”
“Letting your dad know that you have wishes and hopes for him will likely feel really good to him and will signal to him that you care about him as your dad and also as a person,” Mack says. It’s also a nice way to reciprocate all the support and well wishes he’s given you over the years.
11. “We should spend more time together.”
It’s one thing to spend time to together on Father’s Day, possibly while you treat him to a movie or dinner at his favorite restaurant. But why not make a promise to get together more often? It’s a nice thing for your dad to look forward to, and a way to make your relationship even stronger.
Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist
Jacob Brown, MFT, psychotherapist
Dr. Tari Mack, clinical psychologist
Adam Paine, LCSW, therapist
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