Fathers and Holidays
By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
This year, it's going to be different.
Like many fathers, I've felt a bit disconnected from the holiday
season. It's not that I don't buy my presents and help with
decorations. And it's not that I don't spend some wonderful time
with my kids.
It's something deeper than that.
My eight-year-old daughter ran up to me the other day with great
excitement and anticipation.
"This Christmas is going to be the best ever!" she shouted.
I marveled at her excitement, and I wished I could match her
enthusiasm. She'd already found the spirit of the holidays, while I
was mired in "things that I must to do."
The list was long. This holiday season, I'd be buying presents,
coordinating family visits, updating lists and writing cards, doing
decorations outside the house and in, volunteering, running a
business, etc., etc.
There are times when it all seems like too much.
Fathers (and males in general) have a tendency to focus on goals.
Rather than looking at the "big picture" of the holidays, we break
things down into "what tasks need to be
accomplished." When one task is done, we move on to the next. And
while this style does get some things accomplished, it reduces our
capacity to capture the "spirit" of the holidays. The result is that
many fathers have a sense of being on the "periphery" of their
families during the holidays. The tasks are done, but the spirit
This scenario mirrors what happens to many fathers in their
families-they feel outside of the "emotional core" of the family,
and aren't able to experience the depth of warmth,
closeness, and love they want. They don't have some of the skills of
"emotional intelligence" that women have been learning from a very
And this dilemma is further complicated by the fact that fathers are
working longer hours than ever before. According to the
International Labor Organization, Americans work
1,978 hours per year, or a full nine weeks more that the average
Western European. Thirty-eight percent of fathers reported that they
usually worked fifty or more hours per
It's easy to see why fathers can have a difficult time capturing the
spirit of the holidays.
And while this may be a challenging dilemma for fathers, there are a
number of things that fathers can do to enrich their experience this
Shift your thinking away from a
"things to do" mentality to a "what does the family need this
holiday?" mentality. See things with a wider lens. Give this
approach a week and see what happens.
Volunteer to help someone in need
this holiday. Take the kids and spend time enriching the life of
someone who needs it. There's no greater way to capture the
spirit of the holidays than being of service to others. And your
kids will experience something they'll never forget.
Do something this holiday that you
haven't done before. Bake some holiday cookies or create your
own cards to send out. Expanding your creative skills can help
"receive" the spirit of the holidays.
Simply choose to have more joy,
openness, and spirit this holiday. After all, most of it is
choice. Remember your kids are watching you very closely!
I crept up behind my daughter and
tackled her, pinning her down onto the couch. "We're going to have
an amazing Christmas this year, you're right!' I told her. "What do
you want your Christmas to be like?" She sat up and began to tell me
all of the things she wanted to do for Christmas, and about all the
presents she wanted. I sat there with her and listened, forgetting
all of the work and the errands that had been on my mind most of the
And as I sat there listening to her, I felt like a spark of the
holiday spirit was already on its way.
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches parents by phone
to balance their life and improve their family relationships. He is
an Instructor for the Academy for Coaching Parents, and the author
of the “Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers” Ecourse.
Subscribe to One
of Our Great eZines!
Out Our Other Websites!
Work at Home Seniors