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Disconnected Dad? These Three Steps Will Plug You Back In

Even the most committed dads can sometimes feel out of touch with their kids and partner.

The demands of work. . .

the lack of emotionally intelligent masculine role models. . .

the daily grind of schedules, routines, and obligations. . .

. . .these all can throw us off our emotional connection game.

Sometimes it can be a big event like a job change or a new baby, and other times it can be a slow, gradual losing touch.

Regardless of how it happens, we dads can rest in the knowledge that repairing emotional connection is always possible. We just need to value it and then make the moves toward reconnection.

From years working with therapists, researchers, and relationship coaches, here are three tried and true steps dads can make toward emotionally reconnecting with the ones they love the most.

Step 1: Feel What You’re Feeling

This might sound like paradoxical nonsense, but give me a chance. Do you remember being told when you were younger to stop crying? To stop making a fuss? To suck it up?

Maybe it wasn’t your parents but rather kids at school that explicitly or implicitly told you that what you were feeling is not ok and you need to make it stop?

Most men learned as boys that only a narrow range of emotions was acceptable. Maybe a low level of anger and a cool, detached happiness were ok.

Anything outside of that range, and you were out of control, uncool, weird, or unmasculine.

All those years of repressing, resisting, avoiding, and ignoring what we were really feeling have made us unable to actually feel what’s happening in our mind and body.

We’re left with clenched jaws, tense shoulders, back pain, and tightness. And when our emotions finally boil over we end up acting in ways that leave us confused and regretful.

So, we begin by feeling our bodies (where emotions actually arise—not in our heads) and allowing for the experience of emotions to come into our conscious awareness.

In this first step, all we need to do is feel into the body and become aware of what’s happening (e.g., “I’m feeling tightness in my chest”).

Step 2: Know What You’re Feeling

Once we’re able to reconnect with emotions in the body, we can start to give these feelings names. This is no easy task. When most of us try to describe what we’re feeling, we have cliched responses ready to go: “fine,” “upset,” “good,” “out of it.”

The reality is that there are complex emotions flowing beneath our surface awareness and one way to become aware of them is through giving them ever more precise labels. But this takes practice because so many of us simply don’t have words for what we’re feeling.

In the 1970s a few psychotherapists came up with a term–alexithymia–for our inability to put words to our emotions. Alexithymia is greek for “no words for emotions.” It can be a severe condition in which a person is unable to give their emotions any words at all. Most of us, however, at least have a few habitual words we can fall back on.

We can start labeling and knowing what we’re feeling by not giving up after these habitual words pop up. “Angry” or “upset” are broad words that give us a place to start. We can dig deeper by completing the sentence stem “I’m feeling…” over and over until we gain clarity on WHAT we’re actually feeling.

Giving our feelings names helps us understand more about ourselves and eventually gives us the tools to vulnerably express ourselves to our loved ones. This vulnerable expression builds emotional connection!

Step 3: Express What You’re Feeling

This line in the art movie classic, My Dinner with Andre, captures our disconnected dad dilemma perfectly. We live in a society in which we’re only allowed to express our feelings “weirdly and indirectly.”

Of course, this weird and indirect expression of our feelings comes out in passive-aggressive behavior, hurtful remarks, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding.

Direct expression can feel scary because we open ourselves up to conflict and rejection. Most of us also don’t have the skills for it!

If you do the work and find out that ultimately you’re feeling alone, unheard, and unseen in your family, then it’s easy to slip into saying something like: “I’m feeling like you don’t care about me!” While you might feel that way, it’s not a true expression of your feelings. It’s mixing your feelings in with your judgments and mental chatter.

A true expression of emotion/feeling is one that is 100% true and contains no judgments of others. It would instead sound like this: “I’m feeling alone, unheard, and unseen.” No matter what else is going on, this is an inarguable statement. It’s also vulnerable and invites others into your world.

The key to this sort of authentic, 100% true, and vulnerable expression of emotion is that you need to have already taken the time to feel and know what you’re feeling. If you’ve done that internal work, then you’re ready to express what you’re feeling in a way that reconnects you with the ones you love the most.

Disconnection happens. Life is chaotic, families are dynamic, and no one is perfect. The good news is that reconnection is always available if we’re willing to commit to it.

If these ideas resonated with you, please join the next 4-week dads-only workshop: OPEN-Hearted Fatherhood: An Emotion-Focused Way of Showing Up as the Father You Want to Be

Disconnected Dad? These Three Steps Will Plug You Back In

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Disconnected Dad? These Three Steps Will Plug You Back In

From years working with therapists, researchers, and relationship coaches, here are three tried and true steps dads can make toward emotionally reconnecting with the ones they love the most.

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Key takeaways

1

We can reconnect by feeling our feelings (instead of ignoring or resisting them)...

2

Knowing what we're feeling (instead of stopping with broad terms like ”upset”)...

3

And authentically expressing our feelings (instead of holding back or expressing them indirectly).

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Even the most committed dads can sometimes feel out of touch with their kids and partner.

The demands of work. . .

the lack of emotionally intelligent masculine role models. . .

the daily grind of schedules, routines, and obligations. . .

. . .these all can throw us off our emotional connection game.

Sometimes it can be a big event like a job change or a new baby, and other times it can be a slow, gradual losing touch.

Regardless of how it happens, we dads can rest in the knowledge that repairing emotional connection is always possible. We just need to value it and then make the moves toward reconnection.

From years working with therapists, researchers, and relationship coaches, here are three tried and true steps dads can make toward emotionally reconnecting with the ones they love the most.

Step 1: Feel What You’re Feeling

This might sound like paradoxical nonsense, but give me a chance. Do you remember being told when you were younger to stop crying? To stop making a fuss? To suck it up?

Maybe it wasn’t your parents but rather kids at school that explicitly or implicitly told you that what you were feeling is not ok and you need to make it stop?

Most men learned as boys that only a narrow range of emotions was acceptable. Maybe a low level of anger and a cool, detached happiness were ok.

Anything outside of that range, and you were out of control, uncool, weird, or unmasculine.

All those years of repressing, resisting, avoiding, and ignoring what we were really feeling have made us unable to actually feel what’s happening in our mind and body.

We’re left with clenched jaws, tense shoulders, back pain, and tightness. And when our emotions finally boil over we end up acting in ways that leave us confused and regretful.

So, we begin by feeling our bodies (where emotions actually arise—not in our heads) and allowing for the experience of emotions to come into our conscious awareness.

In this first step, all we need to do is feel into the body and become aware of what’s happening (e.g., “I’m feeling tightness in my chest”).

Step 2: Know What You’re Feeling

Once we’re able to reconnect with emotions in the body, we can start to give these feelings names. This is no easy task. When most of us try to describe what we’re feeling, we have cliched responses ready to go: “fine,” “upset,” “good,” “out of it.”

The reality is that there are complex emotions flowing beneath our surface awareness and one way to become aware of them is through giving them ever more precise labels. But this takes practice because so many of us simply don’t have words for what we’re feeling.

In the 1970s a few psychotherapists came up with a term–alexithymia–for our inability to put words to our emotions. Alexithymia is greek for “no words for emotions.” It can be a severe condition in which a person is unable to give their emotions any words at all. Most of us, however, at least have a few habitual words we can fall back on.

We can start labeling and knowing what we’re feeling by not giving up after these habitual words pop up. “Angry” or “upset” are broad words that give us a place to start. We can dig deeper by completing the sentence stem “I’m feeling…” over and over until we gain clarity on WHAT we’re actually feeling.

Giving our feelings names helps us understand more about ourselves and eventually gives us the tools to vulnerably express ourselves to our loved ones. This vulnerable expression builds emotional connection!

Step 3: Express What You’re Feeling

This line in the art movie classic, My Dinner with Andre, captures our disconnected dad dilemma perfectly. We live in a society in which we’re only allowed to express our feelings “weirdly and indirectly.”

Of course, this weird and indirect expression of our feelings comes out in passive-aggressive behavior, hurtful remarks, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding.

Direct expression can feel scary because we open ourselves up to conflict and rejection. Most of us also don’t have the skills for it!

If you do the work and find out that ultimately you’re feeling alone, unheard, and unseen in your family, then it’s easy to slip into saying something like: “I’m feeling like you don’t care about me!” While you might feel that way, it’s not a true expression of your feelings. It’s mixing your feelings in with your judgments and mental chatter.

A true expression of emotion/feeling is one that is 100% true and contains no judgments of others. It would instead sound like this: “I’m feeling alone, unheard, and unseen.” No matter what else is going on, this is an inarguable statement. It’s also vulnerable and invites others into your world.

The key to this sort of authentic, 100% true, and vulnerable expression of emotion is that you need to have already taken the time to feel and know what you’re feeling. If you’ve done that internal work, then you’re ready to express what you’re feeling in a way that reconnects you with the ones you love the most.

Disconnection happens. Life is chaotic, families are dynamic, and no one is perfect. The good news is that reconnection is always available if we’re willing to commit to it.

If these ideas resonated with you, please join the next 4-week dads-only workshop: OPEN-Hearted Fatherhood: An Emotion-Focused Way of Showing Up as the Father You Want to Be

Even the most committed dads can sometimes feel out of touch with their kids and partner.

The demands of work. . .

the lack of emotionally intelligent masculine role models. . .

the daily grind of schedules, routines, and obligations. . .

. . .these all can throw us off our emotional connection game.

Sometimes it can be a big event like a job change or a new baby, and other times it can be a slow, gradual losing touch.

Regardless of how it happens, we dads can rest in the knowledge that repairing emotional connection is always possible. We just need to value it and then make the moves toward reconnection.

From years working with therapists, researchers, and relationship coaches, here are three tried and true steps dads can make toward emotionally reconnecting with the ones they love the most.

Step 1: Feel What You’re Feeling

This might sound like paradoxical nonsense, but give me a chance. Do you remember being told when you were younger to stop crying? To stop making a fuss? To suck it up?

Maybe it wasn’t your parents but rather kids at school that explicitly or implicitly told you that what you were feeling is not ok and you need to make it stop?

Most men learned as boys that only a narrow range of emotions was acceptable. Maybe a low level of anger and a cool, detached happiness were ok.

Anything outside of that range, and you were out of control, uncool, weird, or unmasculine.

All those years of repressing, resisting, avoiding, and ignoring what we were really feeling have made us unable to actually feel what’s happening in our mind and body.

We’re left with clenched jaws, tense shoulders, back pain, and tightness. And when our emotions finally boil over we end up acting in ways that leave us confused and regretful.

So, we begin by feeling our bodies (where emotions actually arise—not in our heads) and allowing for the experience of emotions to come into our conscious awareness.

In this first step, all we need to do is feel into the body and become aware of what’s happening (e.g., “I’m feeling tightness in my chest”).

Step 2: Know What You’re Feeling

Once we’re able to reconnect with emotions in the body, we can start to give these feelings names. This is no easy task. When most of us try to describe what we’re feeling, we have cliched responses ready to go: “fine,” “upset,” “good,” “out of it.”

The reality is that there are complex emotions flowing beneath our surface awareness and one way to become aware of them is through giving them ever more precise labels. But this takes practice because so many of us simply don’t have words for what we’re feeling.

In the 1970s a few psychotherapists came up with a term–alexithymia–for our inability to put words to our emotions. Alexithymia is greek for “no words for emotions.” It can be a severe condition in which a person is unable to give their emotions any words at all. Most of us, however, at least have a few habitual words we can fall back on.

We can start labeling and knowing what we’re feeling by not giving up after these habitual words pop up. “Angry” or “upset” are broad words that give us a place to start. We can dig deeper by completing the sentence stem “I’m feeling…” over and over until we gain clarity on WHAT we’re actually feeling.

Giving our feelings names helps us understand more about ourselves and eventually gives us the tools to vulnerably express ourselves to our loved ones. This vulnerable expression builds emotional connection!

Step 3: Express What You’re Feeling

This line in the art movie classic, My Dinner with Andre, captures our disconnected dad dilemma perfectly. We live in a society in which we’re only allowed to express our feelings “weirdly and indirectly.”

Of course, this weird and indirect expression of our feelings comes out in passive-aggressive behavior, hurtful remarks, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding.

Direct expression can feel scary because we open ourselves up to conflict and rejection. Most of us also don’t have the skills for it!

If you do the work and find out that ultimately you’re feeling alone, unheard, and unseen in your family, then it’s easy to slip into saying something like: “I’m feeling like you don’t care about me!” While you might feel that way, it’s not a true expression of your feelings. It’s mixing your feelings in with your judgments and mental chatter.

A true expression of emotion/feeling is one that is 100% true and contains no judgments of others. It would instead sound like this: “I’m feeling alone, unheard, and unseen.” No matter what else is going on, this is an inarguable statement. It’s also vulnerable and invites others into your world.

The key to this sort of authentic, 100% true, and vulnerable expression of emotion is that you need to have already taken the time to feel and know what you’re feeling. If you’ve done that internal work, then you’re ready to express what you’re feeling in a way that reconnects you with the ones you love the most.

Disconnection happens. Life is chaotic, families are dynamic, and no one is perfect. The good news is that reconnection is always available if we’re willing to commit to it.

If these ideas resonated with you, please join the next 4-week dads-only workshop: OPEN-Hearted Fatherhood: An Emotion-Focused Way of Showing Up as the Father You Want to Be

Even the most committed dads can sometimes feel out of touch with their kids and partner.

The demands of work. . .

the lack of emotionally intelligent masculine role models. . .

the daily grind of schedules, routines, and obligations. . .

. . .these all can throw us off our emotional connection game.

Sometimes it can be a big event like a job change or a new baby, and other times it can be a slow, gradual losing touch.

Regardless of how it happens, we dads can rest in the knowledge that repairing emotional connection is always possible. We just need to value it and then make the moves toward reconnection.

From years working with therapists, researchers, and relationship coaches, here are three tried and true steps dads can make toward emotionally reconnecting with the ones they love the most.

Step 1: Feel What You’re Feeling

This might sound like paradoxical nonsense, but give me a chance. Do you remember being told when you were younger to stop crying? To stop making a fuss? To suck it up?

Maybe it wasn’t your parents but rather kids at school that explicitly or implicitly told you that what you were feeling is not ok and you need to make it stop?

Most men learned as boys that only a narrow range of emotions was acceptable. Maybe a low level of anger and a cool, detached happiness were ok.

Anything outside of that range, and you were out of control, uncool, weird, or unmasculine.

All those years of repressing, resisting, avoiding, and ignoring what we were really feeling have made us unable to actually feel what’s happening in our mind and body.

We’re left with clenched jaws, tense shoulders, back pain, and tightness. And when our emotions finally boil over we end up acting in ways that leave us confused and regretful.

So, we begin by feeling our bodies (where emotions actually arise—not in our heads) and allowing for the experience of emotions to come into our conscious awareness.

In this first step, all we need to do is feel into the body and become aware of what’s happening (e.g., “I’m feeling tightness in my chest”).

Step 2: Know What You’re Feeling

Once we’re able to reconnect with emotions in the body, we can start to give these feelings names. This is no easy task. When most of us try to describe what we’re feeling, we have cliched responses ready to go: “fine,” “upset,” “good,” “out of it.”

The reality is that there are complex emotions flowing beneath our surface awareness and one way to become aware of them is through giving them ever more precise labels. But this takes practice because so many of us simply don’t have words for what we’re feeling.

In the 1970s a few psychotherapists came up with a term–alexithymia–for our inability to put words to our emotions. Alexithymia is greek for “no words for emotions.” It can be a severe condition in which a person is unable to give their emotions any words at all. Most of us, however, at least have a few habitual words we can fall back on.

We can start labeling and knowing what we’re feeling by not giving up after these habitual words pop up. “Angry” or “upset” are broad words that give us a place to start. We can dig deeper by completing the sentence stem “I’m feeling…” over and over until we gain clarity on WHAT we’re actually feeling.

Giving our feelings names helps us understand more about ourselves and eventually gives us the tools to vulnerably express ourselves to our loved ones. This vulnerable expression builds emotional connection!

Step 3: Express What You’re Feeling

This line in the art movie classic, My Dinner with Andre, captures our disconnected dad dilemma perfectly. We live in a society in which we’re only allowed to express our feelings “weirdly and indirectly.”

Of course, this weird and indirect expression of our feelings comes out in passive-aggressive behavior, hurtful remarks, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding.

Direct expression can feel scary because we open ourselves up to conflict and rejection. Most of us also don’t have the skills for it!

If you do the work and find out that ultimately you’re feeling alone, unheard, and unseen in your family, then it’s easy to slip into saying something like: “I’m feeling like you don’t care about me!” While you might feel that way, it’s not a true expression of your feelings. It’s mixing your feelings in with your judgments and mental chatter.

A true expression of emotion/feeling is one that is 100% true and contains no judgments of others. It would instead sound like this: “I’m feeling alone, unheard, and unseen.” No matter what else is going on, this is an inarguable statement. It’s also vulnerable and invites others into your world.

The key to this sort of authentic, 100% true, and vulnerable expression of emotion is that you need to have already taken the time to feel and know what you’re feeling. If you’ve done that internal work, then you’re ready to express what you’re feeling in a way that reconnects you with the ones you love the most.

Disconnection happens. Life is chaotic, families are dynamic, and no one is perfect. The good news is that reconnection is always available if we’re willing to commit to it.

If these ideas resonated with you, please join the next 4-week dads-only workshop: OPEN-Hearted Fatherhood: An Emotion-Focused Way of Showing Up as the Father You Want to Be

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

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