3 Lessons Good Fathers Can Teach Us About Handling Stress

father colorig with kids

One of the most fascinating experiences as a child is seeing your father cry.  In fact, few of us had the chance to witness this level of paternal vulnerability as kids. If we did, it probably shook our little worlds and had us wondering, “what’s wrong with Dad?”  Yet, it’s in the aftermath of his distress that Dad usually showed us why he’s our favorite superhero—while teaching us a thing or two about handling stressful situations.

Seeing Dad cry is probably a rarity because good fathers understand there are many ways to tackle frustrating situations.  While a good cry is a great way to release the emotional weight of losing a loved one or the hurt of rejection from a job, fathers often want to do something about it after the tears are shed and complaints filed.  It’s this active and problem-focused style of coping that healthcare professionals have linked to lower levels of stress, reduced risk for stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, and greater overall life satisfaction.  When Dad makes sure the kids stick to their routine after tragically losing Mom or goes job hunting after being fired, he’s showing us that no matter the circumstances we can find ways to work toward what we can control and let go of what we cannot.

Usually after the distress passes, Dad vows to avoid a similar situation at all costs (yes, Dads can be dramatic, too).  Good fathers know this takes a level of discipline and attention to detail that some are unwilling to engage.  Often this focus manifests itself in one magical word: “NO”.  No video games until homework is done.  No ruining Mom and Dad’s date night despite how bad you need the car.  No “friendly” dinners with a female coworker without the wife knowing.  These boundaries for others and himself do more than show Dad’s tough—it shows us that healthy boundaries for ourselves can prevent stress down the road.

When the dust settles and Dad’s strategies for handling problems work, there’s one thing he’d like to tell us, “I was right”.  Good fathers go a step further by acknowledging their gratefulness for having the tools to get it right and appreciating how much more he can give to others.  Science backs Dad (another reason for him to gloat) by showing us that the brain actually changes the more grateful we become, countering some of the negative impacts of stress.