The first recorded instance of a Father’s Day celebration was in Spokane, Washington in 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd hosted the celebration at the local YMCA to honor her father, who was a Civil War veteran and single dad. Even though the initial proposed date was Dodd’s father’s birthday on June 5, it was designated as the third Sunday in June which gave local pastors time to create sermons honoring fathers in their congregations. In the 1920s, the celebration waned and was not popular again until Dodd returned to Washington after studying art in Chicago and revitalized the observance in 1938. The national observance wasn’t officially recognized until Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
Of course, much like any other holiday of its type, there is a strong commercial component. Men’s retailers suggest that Father’s Day is as big if not bigger than Christmas for the sale of men-specific gift items. But here at Holistic Pain we want to encourage people to take another look at this Hallmark holiday and use it as a day to appreciate and understand our fathers and the other men in our lives.
Men’s health issues
National Men’s Health Week was established for the week leading up to Father’s Day to shed light on health issues facing the men in our society. There is a stigma in our culture that men should push through the pain. It is the very origin of the phrase, “man up.” Unfortunately, this means far too many men ignore health issues until they become critical. Instead, Men’s Health Week strives to bring attention to common health problems men face and encourage proper preventative and follow-up health care.
Men’s Health Week offers a variety of resources as well as ways that communities and families can be involved. Rather than buying ties or wallets for your father this year, why not talk to him about the important health issues that he may be facing if he doesn’t seek medical advice?
How to support fathers with chronic pain
Due to the overwhelming numbers of individuals in the United States who are facing chronic pain, chances are that various fathers in your life are also suffering from the effects of these conditions. How can you support parents in your life who are dealing with chronic pain?
Pain can limit a father’s ability to be there for their child through some of the most important times of their childhood. It can reduce their ability to participate in physical activities, such as sports or school functions. Sitting for long periods of time can be painful. And, for some men, chronic pain can lead to unemployment that can cause long-term family problems. These are real issues that need to be addressed.
In our research there are plenty of first-hand accounts of women who parent with chronic pain. You can see their stories here, here, and here. But what about the fathers in our lives? Men, as a whole, aren’t generally public about their personal struggles, which is why a lot of parenting bloggers are women. But men will face different challenges than their wives when it comes to parenting through the pain. There are some ways you can talk about chronic pain with your children in either case.
Web MD provides these ideas for talking with your child about your chronic pain.
- It isn’t one and done. Men especially don’t like to talk about their feelings or repeat the same things over and over again but a child, especially when they’re small, often needs reinforcement of ideas before they sink in. You will need to talk with them frequently about your chronic pain and change the message as they get older so they can better comprehend it.
- Keep it simple. Especially for little children, the simpler you make the concepts without lying the better. Always be honest with them. Tell them that you hurt and that there are things you can’t do that their friends’ parents can. Don’t be afraid to tell them what your condition is called and how it affects you.
- Be reassuring. Of course, just because you’re experiencing chronic pain doesn’t mean you don’t love your children. Things can be hard, you can get emotionally frustrated and physically exhausted, but your kids still deserve your reassurance that they are fine and they are not responsible.
- Allow them to help. Your children love you and they want to help make your life easier, in spite of their natural inclination to be frustrating sometimes. Giving them simple tasks that truly help you can make them feel valued and part of your healthcare team. That being said, only allow them to help in appropriate ways. They shouldn’t become your only caregiver, especially before they’re adults.
- Listen to your kids. Your children will have concerns about your condition or how it affects you. Ask them how they feel and let them know they can tell you anything or ask any questions. Let them approach you on their own terms when the time is right for them, but always let them know the door is open for honest and frank conversations about how your chronic pain affects you and your family life.
Honoring Father’s Day without your father
Some people have a hard time with Father’s Day, as well as Mother’s Day, when it can bring up painful memories of the past. Men and women without a father in their lives can find it hurtful to see others being honored and celebrated on this day. When someone is living with chronic pain or mental health conditions this can be exacerbated. Depending on the chronic pain condition you’re living with, you may also need to help your children better cope if they are facing a time in their lives without you. Here is a great resource from NPR about Father’s Day without a dad.
How can you incorporate men’s health awareness with this year’s Father’s Day observance?
Image by Petras Gagilas via Flickr