How To Make Father’s Day Meaningful By Sharing Family Stories

Give the gift of gratitude by relating meaningful stories about your family.

How To Make Father’s Day Meaningful By Sharing Family Stories getty

For many people, Father’s Day feels like one of those contrived obligations we're compelled to observe, perhaps grudgingly.

Like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, the list of commercially driven expectations for store-bought gifts, cards, and platitudes seem to mundanely mark the passage of time.

But the list of Father's Day ideas need not be so extravagant — especially now with COVID-19, when we are more likely to have virtual family gatherings and connections.


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The expressions of appreciation, gratitude, and love are more significant, meaningful, and life-affirming than ever.

During stressful times, we can take the opportunity to transform a contrived occasion into a most meaningful experience that will be treasured and ennobling for all.

Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving during the darkest period of the Civil War "to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."


That day was created during a crisis to remind everyone of the enduring values.

So, in the same spirit, there's a way to make the most of this Father’s Day and create the moments and memories that will be cherished by all in your own unique way.

Give the gift of gratitude by relating meaningful stories about your family.

If you're a Dad, tell a story about your father and grandfather that shows who they were and what is meaningful to remember.

If you're a son or daughter, tell a story to your Dad about what you most remember he did for you or for others that you cherish.

Avoid the common mistakes to patronize, criticize, complain, recollect past hurts, and unresolved conflicts.


Take heed and laugh with the wonderful expression: "None of us had the parents we deserved." Don’t go there.

Here are principles that can help guide you to a meaningful Father's Day storytelling.

1. Values are important.

Think about ways your family helped you learn how to be a person in this world.

The stories about character and priorities such as education, having your back, useful advice, and ways you felt heard, seen, and loved (even if sporadic) illustrate values that are difficult to just say without having a context from your shared experience.

2. Legacy is about communication.

We create memories for ourselves and others by modeling behavior and recounting shared stories. Stories transmit these values and enhance relationships moving forward.


Think about recollections of the past as modeling for the future of the relationship.

3. The giver and receiver both can benefit.

For the communicator, these family stories can be life-giving. You may choose to recall those who have passed on and bring their values and circumstances to life for the generations moving forward.

Having this shared experience can strengthen your relationship.

For the receiver, there can be gratitude, meaning, and the wisdom to be better. By telling the story, you can feel closer to each other and become more open to sharing more stories without the necessity for a holiday to do it.

If you can define your purpose and how you would like the story to be received, you can be more effective in going beyond your comfort zone in the ways you may generally communicate, as long as you're true to yourself and your loved ones.


Be authentic. 

Use your own words, phrases, and expressions so it feels natural to you and your loved ones.

Be true to the relationship. 

If you have familial conflicts and discomforts (who doesn’t?), then don’t sugarcoat or ignore reality. You can select that which you feel will be well received by your family and not linger on past slights and grievances.

Determine what you want them to think, feel, and do. 

A family story may be fashioned to teach some wisdom or knowledge, create empathy and love, or illustrate actions that can be avoided or pursued.

Be conscious of the occasion and timeliness. 

Certain stories fit the occasion or circumstance. Some are timeless, but relevant to life stages.


Choose the story you feel is most compelling to you for now.

Move forward.

The story you wish to tell should help affect the relationship you have for the future. A reminiscence can be powerful to help improve understanding of expectations and aspirations in the relationship.

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You can make this work if both the father and the children tell stories that complement each other.

The adult child can recall a story about their father or grandfather that's a wonderful complement to their father's story about his own father. To illustrate, here is a story my son told me about my father that he recalls and treasures.


My father, Harry Saperstein, lived in New York City his whole life, while my son was born and raised in Northern California. My parents would take the kids with them to places and have lots of time to talk.

My son said that when he was eight years old, my Dad would talk to him about "Voytew" and he had no idea what neither the word nor the subject my Dad would talk about meant.

When my son attended university, long after Harry Saperstein had passed on, he heard in a lecture about the Greek ideal of virtue — doing what is right and showing moral excellence for personal and collective benefit.


And it clicked that this was what my father was talking about but in a thick New York accent. My Dad loved Greek philosophy and would talk to anyone he could corner about it, including my son at eight years old.

So, when my son made the connection, he remembered Harry Saperstein in a loving way.

When my son told me the story, I laughed remembering similar lectures on Greek philosophy I endured as a kid through adulthood.

I, then, remembered the time I saw my Dad most excited when he pointed to the night sky, exclaiming he was looking at the same stars as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had seen.

These precious recollections brought my Dad’s presence back to me and my son. Loving memory can be passed on through stories such as these that are unique to each of us.


Remembrance can take on life as they are shared. That occurred in a very real way when my son and his wife named their firstborn son Harry in memory of my Dad.

Now that is virtue.

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Jeff Saperstein is a career transition coach. For more information, visit his website.