“I hate my father!” These sad and disturbing words were heard far too many times this summer. What would cause a child to say this? Although many of our campers have wonderful fathers with whom they have great relationships, unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. Many have been abandoned by their father at an early age. Others have been victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Some are struggling with the reality that their father is in jail or prison.
How do we respond to a child saying that they hate their father?
- First of all, our counseling staff does a great job at listening. Even though we cannot change their difficult circumstances, we can communicate understanding, care and concern.
- Next, even if a father is less than ideal, we still emphasize the importance of honoring, and if the father is still in the home, obeying. We cannot control what others do, but we can make sure we live our own lives in obedience to God even when the path is difficult. We may “feel hate” toward a father but we are to “show love” by our actions. In the case where the child is currently at risk of abuse, we fulfill our obligation as mandatory reporters.
- We can help them see their fathers in a new light by focusing on what he has been doing well. Even flawed fathers have redeeming characteristics if we take an honest look. For example, when an incarcerated father seeks after Jesus while prison, his children may have become eligible for Christmas gifts or a camp scholarship.
- We also do all we can to model godly adult male interactions while they are with us. Gentleness, kindness, attention, encouragement, the setting of appropriate boundaries, honesty, reliability and discipline all give a taste of true manhood.
- Finally, we introduce them to their Heavenly Father who loves them unconditionally and perfectly. He can be everything for them that their human father may not have been.
I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:18
We believe that God’s power is great enough that those who struggling with hating their fathers will return home and love their fathers.