Father-daughter relationships are complicated. When she is young, your little girl is follows you around either vowing to be just like you or swearing that she wants to marry you when she grows up. Then, almost before you can blink your eyes, she starts talking on the phone to friends, texting, wearing make-up and (gulp) dating. It’s often difficult to feel connected to your little girl as she grows up but studies have consistently shown that girls who have a good relationship with their fathers have healthier relationships with men, increased self-esteem and sense of self-worth and fewer overall mental health concerns. How can you nurture your relationship with your daughter without either pushing her away or locking her in her room till adolescence is over? By making an effort to stay connected, to nurture your relationship with your daughter and to keep the lines of communication open.
How To Stay Connected
- Avoid the quick fix: As a father, it’s natural to want to fix any and all problems that your daughter has. However, sometimes all she needs is someone to listen and validate what she’s feeling. Girls are often more interested in talking out their issues than they are in an immediate fix. By being that ear she needs, you are providing her with a sense of support and the knowledge that you are interested in her problems.
- Understanding girl-world: Although it may seem awkward at first, by making an effort to understand your daughter’s world, which will often be fraught with girl-drama, make-up and boys, you are making an effort to understand her. Take the time to learn about what’s important to your daughter. This will help keep the lines of communication open and give you both something to talk about.
- Respect her mom: By showing their mother respect, whether married to them or not, you will teach your daughter about healthy relationships and the way that a woman deserves to be treated. Demeaning their mother will only succeed in putting distance between you and your daughter.
- Help with homework: While homework may not be your definition of fun, it can be a great bonding experience for you and your daughter. It will also show your daughter that you value learning and education.
- Make and keep promises: By keeping your word, you are building a sense of trust with your daughter. If you’ve committed to be taking her to the doctor or attending her dance recital, then following through is critical. By modeling trustworthy and committed behavior, your daughter will seek out other men in her life that are also committed and trustworthy.
- Spend time with her: Taking her on father-daughter “dates” and spending one-on-one time with her in a fun and relaxed way will help solidify the bond that you two share. Let her choose the activity, whether it’s lunch, a movie or shopping. By spending time together you will be solidifying your bond with her and let her know the value you place on your relationship with her.
- Just be there: By being present in your daughter’s life, whether it’s hanging out at home, watching TV together, having a family dinner, your daughter will come to trust your presence there and this can help create a pathway for conversation. Typically, the more you see your daughter, the closer she will feel toward you.
- Respect her privacy: It’s often difficult for a father to deal with their daughter’s changing body but it is a reality as your daughter grows into womanhood. Father’s can still play an active role in their daughter’s lives while respecting their daughter’s closed door.
- Focus on her talents, not on her looks: In today’s society, emphasis is often placed on beauty and looks, rather than talent, intelligence and skill. By complimenting your daughter’s ability in school, her performance in a play or her skill on the swim team, you are reinforcing the fact that it’s what’s inside that counts, not external beauty.
- Get physical (sort of): While many fathers are often a bit wary of physical contact with their developing daughters, hugs, kisses on the cheek and pats on the back are still important. Girls still need to feel their fathers love, not just hear about it.
Few things matter more in a girl’s mental, physical and social development than the relationship with her father. The father-daughter bond is an example for male-female relationships later on and as the first man in your daughter’s life, it’s critical that you provide your daughter with a roadmap of how healthy positive male-female relationships can look. By treating her, her mother and all women with respect, by acknowledging your daughter’s accomplishments and skill, by listening to her without judgment, valuing her opinion and showing an interest in her life, you are modeling how a healthy relationship can and should be. By helping your daughter feel good about herself, you are providing her with the necessary tools to be a better friend, a better wife and a better mother later in life.