These 10 tips for building father-daughter relationships come from fathers who have daughters themselves. They are honest and lovely.
There has been a lot written about the influence of fathers on a girl’s future relationships. It is clear that the way a woman approaches romantic relationships is affected by the way she was treated by her father or father figure. If she was treated with respect and care, that is what she will expect from potential suitors.
However, it would be a terrible injustice to think that the influence of a girl’s father ends with her love life. A bond between father and daughter will positively impact:
- Body image
- Platonic relationships
- Emotional health
- Academic success
- Career success
For me the most surprising of these is the impact of a girl’s father figure on academic and career success. We traditionally focus on the role of mothers in the education arena. It’s an area well worth exploring for dads.
So how should fathers go about building connectedness with their daughters? These ten tips were put together with the help of several fathers of girls, and I thank them. These fathers aren’t perfect, but kids don’t need perfect dads. They need ‘good-enough dads’, just like they need ‘good-enough mums’.
TOP 10 TIPS FOR BUILDING FATHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS
1. Tell your daughter every day that she is loved
Tell your daughter every day that she is loved, smart, beautiful, worthy, capable and all those things that you know her to be. She should feel your love, respect, and belief in her all the way to her core.
If you don’t tell her she is loved, capable, and worthy, you leave her vulnerable to inauthentic people who will win her over with words. When someone in her future flatters her, she should think, ‘Yes. I know that, my dad told me. Now, what else have you got besides compliments?’
2. Ensure your daughter knows she can talk to you and you will love her no matter what she tells you
You need to be a safe space for your daughter. That will mean turning off your ego. It isn’t about you listening to find a solution, it is about listening to understand. Breathe, be still and focus on what she is saying verbally and with her body language. You will soon see what it means to her that you listen without judgement.
3. When you make mistakes, don’t be afraid of starting again.
When you make mistakes, don’t be afraid of starting again. Take the hit to your pride, apologise and start again. You don’t become a better parent by beating yourself up for getting things wrong, you become a better parent by learning from your mistakes. It’s also important to realise you only really know if you’re making mistakes by inviting feedback. Honest feedback can be confronting, but it’s important.
4. Be involved in your daughter’s education
Talk regularly with your daughter about school and her assigned work, and get involved! Discuss issues presented at school. Check homework. Read with her, go to the library with her. Discuss her dreams for her future, without imposing your own.
5. Know that time always matters.
People talk about quality time over quantity of time. What even is quality time? When your daughter looks back on her life with you, she is going to remember whether or not you were there. She will remember you being around.
6. Provide a stable base for her to launch from
As girls become teenagers they strive for and explore independence. At this time, they can often push away from their parents and that can really hurt. Don’t take it personally, don’t react with anger, it will only drive them further away. Communicate boundaries effectively but support her in her development and be there as a stable base when she needs you.
7. Do the school drop-off whenever you can
The school drop-off will keep you connected and in the know. A quick stop for hot chocolate or Maccas’ chips on the way home will only cost you $4 but it is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
8. In times of conflict…pause
Got a problem? Pause. Rather than trying to control or fix things, it is much more effective to stop and first look at the issue being discussed. Is it even important? A pause will help you find the guidance and learning in the situation, for your daughter and for yourself. You can then act instead of reacting.
9. Build traditions and rituals
Traditions and rituals create bonds and keep you connected even in difficult times. They don’t have to be fancy traditions. They can be having a photo in the same place at the same time every year. It might be reading part of a favourite book together every night, a funny handshake or a monthly date night. In times of stress and upset, these familiar spaces will be a place where you can reconnect.
10. Be prepared to make a fool of yourself in front of your daughter.
Daggy dancing, singing out of key, having a go at activities you have no mastery over are all fun and important in your daughter’s formation and in your relationship. Not only will you laugh together, and laughter is bonding, but she will learn that ‘looking good’ all the time simply isn’t a priority, having fun and experimenting is.
No family situation is the same and very few are perfect, and that’s okay. Kids know when you love them and are doing the best you can, and that counts for more than anything.