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Tips for Dads: Surviving your Daughter’s Teenage Years

Staying calm and picking your battles

A daughter may begin as “Daddy’s little girl,” all wide-eyed and full of sunshine. However, as she ages, many fathers find they lose that special connection they once had with their daughters. Effective communication can help bridge the gap that sometimes forms between fathers and daughters when girls become teenagers.

It’s easy for a daughter to be Daddy’s girl when she is young. Many daughters see their dad as a heroic figure. He puts together doll houses, mends broken toys, kisses her “boo-boos” when she gets hurt and comes home with that shiny, pink tricycle she adores. Fathers often have soft spots for their daughters and don’t necessarily mind being manipulated by their charms. All it takes are little pouts of pursed lips for daughters to get cookies or spend a few more minutes watching Dora.

However, things tend to change as daughters grow up. They go to school, find new interests and suddenly Daddy isn’t the center of life anymore. Before long, boys capture the girls’ attention and Dad plays second fiddle to Justin Beiber, Robert Pattinson, et al. Suddenly Dad’s role as hero morphs into protector instead. He may see himself as the defender of his daughter’s virtue, while she sees her father as the lead prison guard. Finding a balance can keep the lines of communication — and love — open.

  • Be available often. Frequently spending time together and showing a genuine interest in what your daughter likes can keep conversations going. It may be difficult to stay focused on the latest girl trends or which guy she’s rooting for in “The Hunger Games,” but simply spending time in each other’s presence can continue to build on the foundation of comfort and trust.
  • Cherish the moments while you can. Before you know it, she’ll be out of the house and fully immersed in her own life. So make the most of opportunities to share time together while they’re still available.
  • Lead by example. Show her how much you love her mother and ingrain those images in her mind. They say girls often lean toward men who emulate their own fathers. If you’re a good dad and husband, she just may land a respectable boyfriend or husband down the line.
  • Be calm, cool and collected when meeting her first boyfriend. It’s alright to be over-protective — that’s your job. But realize that attempting to scare away every prospective suitor who arrives at the house is ineffective. She’ll just try harder, and maybe soon she won’t ask guys to pick her up at home. Where will that leave you then?
  • Realize hormones are real, and they cause profound changes in a girl’s life. A girl goes through many changes as she progresses into womanhood. It can be a happy or challenging time for her as she comes to terms with a new body and feelings. Have patience; things will level out with time.
  • Tell her she’s beautiful when you can. She may not always believe you, but with so many magazines and media messages showing girls how they need to change to be pretty, some comforting words can go a long way.
  • Learn to pick your battles. Many teenagers test boundaries throughout their adolescence. Be sure to veto some of her choices, but let her follow through on some so she can learn some of her own lessons the hard way.
  • Chances are the wardrobe, makeup and piercings will be just a phase. She’s finding herself in the world and looking for an identity. There may be some interesting styles along the way. Unless it’s a health threat or dangerous, you may want to go with the flow.
  • Make it known that she can always come home. Whether she’s in trouble, needs support or simply wants to say hello, set it in stone that your door is always open.
  • Trust is sometimes hard to come by but make every attempt. The sooner you learn to trust her and she trust you, the better the relationship will be.

 

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