Dad's day is on its way, and we want to take time to recognize how important father/daughter relationships are. Whether you're a father, stepfather, uncle, teacher or family friend, the men in tween and teen girls' lives are important in so many ways. Here are some ways Dad can foster his relationship with his daughter as she goes through the unpredictable adolescent years...
- Balance protection with independence. Daughters are growing up fast, and it's normal to want to protect her from the world. However, adolescent girls need to know that you trust them to explore the world, to learn from their mistakes and to separate from you. This growing independence is healthy, normal and important for your daughter to develop a sense of self-confidence. Knowing that you're there for her when she needs you can give her the boost she needs to feel safe exploring the world with increasing independence.
- Laugh with her. The teen years can be challenging, so don't forget to balance out the negative interactions with a lot of laughter! Don't be afraid to turn up the Justin Bieber and sing along, even if it means she tells you how embarrassing you are.
- Show up for her. This means pay attention to the things she likes and make every effort to be there for the things that matter to her. Seeing your face in a crowd will stay with her for a lifetime.
- Apologize when you make a mistake. Every parent will make a mistake now and then. The important part is how you repair it. Use these opportunities to deepen your relationship with her and teach her the importance of forgiveness. Connect with her emotionally, and don't be afraid to share what you're feeling. Give her a chance to learn that men have feelings too, and that it's safe to talk about them.
- Respect her emotional space. Girls may show emotion and manage moods differently than boys. Show her that you respect what she's experiencing by not making light of her feelings, dismissing her or (the worst offender) blaming it on her hormones or period. Girls need to know that their dads take them seriously, and it's especially important for teens to feel listened to.
- Share your interests with her. Whether you're a dad who's into music or crafts, athletics or books, invite your daughter into your world regularly. Never assume that it's a "guy thing" that she won't be into. Help her cultivate a wide range of interests by showing her that gender doesn't bar her from anything. By the same token, be open to her interests and engage with her in her world.
- Tell her you love her. Often. And don't be suprised if she doesn't always say it back to you as a teen. Your words, and actions, matter to her.
Happy Father's Day to all the men out there helping raise independent, engaged, curious, playful and strong daughters!