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Happy Fathers Day, Emotionally Neglectful Dad

Father’s Day is easy for all of the people who feel loving, loved and close with their dads. If your relationship with your father is strong and uncomplicated, I hope you will give him the wonderful Father’s Day that he so deserves.

But the world is full of people who have more complex relationships with their dads. If you feel either confused or disappointed about your father, there’s a fairly good chance that it’s because of hidden CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect).

  • Do you get irritated or snap at your father for apparent no reason?
  • Do you cringe a little inside when you have to talk to your dad?
  • Does being alone with your father make you feel awkward or uncomfortable?
  • Are you uncertain whether your father loves you and/or is proud of you?
  • Do you sometimes feel that your dad doesn’t actually know you very well?
  • Do you look forward to seeing your father, and then often feel vaguely let down or perplexed afterward?

All of these questions are designed to highlight something that is missing from your relationship with your father; something that’s invisible and typically hard to pinpoint, but which is absolutely vital for a healthy father/child relationship:

Emotional Connection

When you grow up emotionally disconnected from your father, you don’t necessarily realize it. Yet there are many fathers who don’t directly damage their children by actively abusing them. They may provide well materially, and they may even love the child. But they don’t know how to emotionally connect, often because their own fathers didn’t emotionally connect either.

Men are subject to emotional discrimination in today’s world, but that discrimination was far worse in previous generations. Our fathers and our fathers’ fathers were trained to hide their feelings from the world. Emotion is weakness, they were told. Legions of men raised their children caught between two opposing forces: Be tough; and be a good father. Unfortunately tough, emotionless men do not make very good fathers.

If your dad was abusive, toxic or mean during your childhood, has never taken responsibility for how he hurt you, and continues to harm you to this day, then you owe him nothing. Focus on yourself and what you need. Father’s Day is your day to focus on yourself. No guilt allowed.

But if your dad wasn’t/isn’t abusive and seems to care, but simply doesn’t know how to emotionally connect, follow these:

Five Steps For Celebrating Father’s Day With Your Emotionally Neglectful Dad:

  1. Acknowledge that your father, however well-meaning, failed you in one very important way. A way that matters and has impacted you greatly.
  2. Acknowledging this basic truth does not make your father bad. You are not trying to blame him; only to understand him, and yourself.
  3. Put a special focus on yourself this day. Recognize that it may be a more complex day for you and your father than it is meant to be, and that’s okay. Make sure to take care of yourself today.
  4. Make a promise to yourself that you will deal with your own empty spaces and blind spots; the areas left vacant by your emotionally neglectful dad.
  5. Today, decide that you will not pass insidious, invisible Emotional Neglect down to your children. You will give yourself what you never got, so that you can also give it to your children.

Your father gave you a lot, but he also failed you. Both are true. Today, try to focus on what he did right.

That will be your Father’s Day gift to him.

To learn how to fill the empty spaces and emotional blind spots left by Childhood Emotional Neglect, and how to make sure you do not pass it on to your children, see and the book, Running on Empty.

Happy Father’s Day.

Photo by TMAB2003

Happy Fathers Day, Emotionally Neglectful Dad

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2015). Happy Fathers Day, Emotionally Neglectful Dad. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jun 2015
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