Dads have a major influence on their daughters, yet they often have difficulty to connect or stay connected as their daughters grow older, resulting in an awkward father-daughter relationship.
A healthy relationship between dad and daughter will build her self-image and self-worth, and could play a key role in her choice of men. So… keep working at it.
Here are some tips to maintain a healthy father-daughter relationship:
1. Respect her boundaries, likes and dislikes. Don’t bully or laugh at her ever. Daughters tend to be sensitive beings, and, being the most influential man in her earlier life, whatever you say or do will not be taken lightly.
2. Be her friend. Yes, she needs boundaries and rules to keep her safe, but don’t forget that she has a brain too – ask her opinion, tell her what you think about stuff. The key is accessibility. She needs to know that you are not some scary, grumpy figure, but rather one that she can turn to when the world is on her shoulders.
3. Play together. Dads and daughters also need to take a break from the heavy stuff and just have fun. If your daughter is sporty, then help her practise (but don’t go overboard coach! Remember, the objective is laughter). If she is not that into sports, then find a project the two of you can work on. If her hobbies are too girly for you, dad, then do something like paint a wall in her room together, build a table for her room – anything that will cheer her up and show her that you care about her likes and dislikes.
4. Take a trip. Set a monthly date for a day/afternoon trip with your daughter. Do fun stuff, like go drink a milkshake (or a latte if she’s older), go ice-skating or take her to do cool dad stuff like going to the race track – depending on how much time you have. Rest assured, spending even just an hour with her can make all the difference. If you haven’t done this before, it can be awkward at first. But keep at it. The two of you will eventually become more relaxed in each other’s company and start enjoying it. These small rituals will have a lasting impact on her life.
5. Talk to her, and, more importantly, listen to what she is saying. This one is a major challenge as most dads don’t feel all that comfortable with striking up a conversation. Well, if this is you, then just listen at first and mirror what she is saying and ask open-ended questions: “I hate going to school.” “So, why do you hate school so much?” Then share some of your own memories of when you were her age, or simply give an unbiased opinion (but don’t be overbearing…).
6. Speaking to your daughter often will go a long way in helping you trust her, especially when she needs it most, like in her teens. Yes, cover the basics like where, with whom, what time… but do not make her feel trapped. Let her know that you trust her and want her to have a great time (even though you really just feel like locking her up in her room…). This will help her learn independency and responsibility.
7. And, what if she doesn’t quite stick to your rules after you’ve done all that? Make sure she knows and agrees with the consequences beforehand, and act accordingly. Don’t be too emotional about it. Remember, she needs to know that you love her unconditionally and that the rules are only there to keep her safe.
8. Encourage her to bring her friends home, and then give them some space. Show her that you accept them. Getting her to rather bring her friends home, than to have her be at a friend’s house all the time is a blessing.
9. Understand what is happening in her body and psyche throughout all the stages of her life, and keep that in mind when she throws a tantrum or is sad. Knowing where she is coming from will help you better handle the situation.