If you have a daughter I'm willing to bet that as she grows up into a woman there are a ton of concerns, hesitations, and questions you may encounter along the way. It can be difficult and awkward to watch your little girl develop. She will begin to change emotionally and physically, have more crushes, and soon begin to date. Dads play a HUGE role in raising sexually healthy girls and I wanted to provide some pointers to guide you along the way.
As a teenager, I was starving for my father's presence and attention. My Dad was a Snap-On Tool Salesman for 30 years and worked from 9am-9pm Monday thru Friday. On weekends he worked around the house and garage mostly and a few times a year we would go camping in our motorhome. My Mom stayed at home and was mostly responsible for raising me. My Dad was an excellent provider and I mostly remember talking to him growing up when I was in trouble or needed money.
I was a good student and athlete, but I have no memories of my Dad attending my awards ceremonies or sports games. He was always working. When I would bring a report card home with all A's and one B, he focused on the B and how it should be an A. His lack of perceived interest in my life mixed with a critical eye sent me down a pretty troubling path as a teen.
All I wanted was for him to say he loved me once in awhile (I can count on one hand how many times this happened in my life) and be there for the important things to me. I never felt good enough, so I sought attention from guys. Without getting into all of the details and mistakes I made along the way, let us just say I kept my parents on their toes and caused many sleepless nights.
As an adult now, I have a much closer relationship with my Dad. I realize he felt his role in our household was as the sole provider. He grew up very poor and wanted his children to have the things he didn't have growing up. His parents weren't very affectionate with him and were very critical. These circumstances made him who he is and influenced his parenting style. I understand it, feel fortunate my Dad was around at all for me growing up, but always wished I had a more available father, one who didn't "miss" my life.
I share my story in this blog for Dads in hope that you can better understand the needs of your girls. They may be different than you think. Your role is much greater than you may believe.
Even though conversations about body changes or sexuality may not be the most exciting topic for you to cover as a dad, it is important. You'll want to be sure your girls hear what you have to say, in addition to the women in their life. Research shows there are many benefits to this. For example, your daughters:
1. Spend quality time together and show up for important events to her. Be involved with the details of her daily life. Ask her how her day was and what she did with her time. Show up. Make time to attend sporting events and after-school activities she is involved in. It will mean the world to her. A daddy-daughter date night once a month would also be fantastic!
2. Model good behavior. She is watching you on how a man treats a woman. If you are with your daughter's mother, show her affection and respect.
3. Recognize your daughter's strengths and tell her you are proud of her.
4. Be accessible and available. Make her feel special. Say “I love you” and give lots of hugs! Please, please, please don't stop giving affection as she starts developing. This is extremely confusing to girls and can hurt their feelings.
5. Be firm in your discipline. She will test you.
6. Share stories from your own past. Talk about good and bad moments and how they impacted your life. Share stories about boys and how they think and behave. Share stories about how YOU thought and behaved growing up. Give her the benefit of your experiences and your male point of view.
7. Be a good listener and ask for her opinion on things. Don't be a know it all. Admit that you have made mistakes and be willing to apologize if you ever hurt her feelings.
8. Don't solve every problem. Clarify WHAT your daughter is asking and is needing from you. Show empathy for her feelings first and make her feel listened to and heard. Then be direct.
9. Know she may not mean everything she says. This can be confusing, so ask for clarification when needed. Sometimes girls don't want to be a burden or inconvenience you and don't always ask for what they really want or need. Try to anticipate her needs.
10. Remember to compliment her! Teen girls are at the age when they want to experiment with changing their look and for you to accept that she is experimenting brings validation.
11. Remind and affirm to your girls that it’s okay to talk to you about sex and growing up and practice talking! Use positive body language (don’t seem embarrassed or hesitant to answer) when you do and bring it up yourself. Don't wait for your daughter to ask questions.
Please provide your name and email so we can stay in touch!