A strong father-daughter bond needs nurturing.
There’s nothing quite like the relationship a father builds with his little girl. From the moment she’s born, you can envision everything from her first steps to walking her down the aisle someday. Her dad is the first man she’ll know and love, and she’ll look to you for advice on how to be independent, how to treat others in her life and how to grow into herself. While being a strong, male role model to a son can be special in its own way and come more naturally to you, being a father to a daughter can leave you with a whole new set of joys and challenges.
Research suggests that children whose fathers are involved and present in their lives are more likely to excel in school and experience fewer behavioural issues. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned parent, your children depend on you for a lot more than just their basic needs for survival. One thing kids look to their parents for is personal connection.
Your daughter will be going through a lot of changes as she goes from infancy to adolescence to young adulthood – changes she’ll depend on you to help get her through. Navigating puberty, her social life and increasingly complex emotions can stop any dad in his tracks, but there are plenty of ways to foster trust and create a safe place for you and your little girl to grow and discover who she is becoming. If you’re a single dad, here are a few tips for building connection with your daughter:
1. Listen first, offer solutions second
Generally, dads, and more so single dads where mum is not present in their child’s life, know what it’s like to feel protective of their little girl. As her single parent, you’ll be the first person she knows that can make anything better – falling off her bike, learning to share, scraping her knee, checking for monsters in the closet at bedtime. As she grows and gets older, you may feel the paternal instinct to intervene at every upset, but it’s important to learn when to just listen.
Over time, your daughter’s life and circumstances will become more complex and she will have to make decisions that only she can make. As her brain’s structure solidifies and her body changes, she’ll develop emotional maturity and self-awareness that can often lead to frustration and confusion. Your response to her emotions will play a big role in how she learns to cope with obstacles in her life.
As hard as it may be, try to resist “fixing” it right away. A lot of times, she’ll just need to know she’s not alone as she works through her feelings, and that’s important to her growth. Lend her an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and assurance that she’s not alone. Her trust in dad will deepen and she’ll feel more connected to you. A little empathy can go a long way here…
This will also help your daughter understand that her feelings are normal. If you can empower her to work through any situation together, you’ll be doing more for her than you realize. Whether it’s a bully at school, her first heartbreak or her own self-esteem, she’ll be looking to her dad for emotional support as well as solutions.
2. Always keep learning
When in doubt, research! There are going to be a few things that you don’t know how to do as a first-time or single parent. There’s no shame in educating yourself at every opportunity.
There are a myriad of resources available to you, such as books, articles, videos, parent support groups, single dad’s organizations and podcasts. Use these tools to learn how to connect with your daughter and relieve stress from your own life.
There are medical professionals, mental health professionals, a community of other parents, and even social researchers who can offer valuable insight at every turn. Trust me, your research and investment in your daughter will pay off in your dad-daughter relationship.
3. Stay involved and limit distractions
Single parents are superheroes. Between your job, home life and your daughter’s social activities, you’re likely flying through your day at the speed of light and not getting much rest.
As much as possible, try to remain fully present when you’re having a conversation or if you’re attending your daughter’s school plays, dance recitals, sports tournaments, piano performances and parent-teacher meetings. Showing up without distractions or excuses will communicate to her and her leaders that dad is involved and dedicated to knowing her deeply.
This can also keep you aware of and involved in her personal choices in friends, activities, beliefs and influences. These are crucial elements to her character and her path in life – and being involved in those conversations will bolster your relationship with her. This isn’t to say you have to hover too closely or have strict rules, but by intentionally keeping the conversation open and honest, she’ll be sure that you’re looking out for her because you love her.
4. Make it fun! Plan a holiday
Every parent’s experience is different, and it’s not uncommon to have a mixture of overwhelming days and calm days. A big part of learning to balance the demands of single parenting is to know when to rest and have fun. Make sure you reserve time for games, movies, outings and other fun activities.
If you really want to have a good time, consider going on a single parent holiday with your daughter to get away, relax, recharge and laugh together. The day-to-day can become stale and your relationship may need some undivided attention. A holiday is the perfect way to reset your dynamic.
As a single dad planning a holiday with your kids, it’s important to know how to prepare, when to plan and what to do in order to avoid even more stress. With the right preparation, you’ll be able to explore the world and learn more about your daughter at the same time!
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need an afternoon to get some work done around the house, or if you need to take a short holiday to unwind by yourself, there are likely plenty of people around you who would love to step in and invest in your daughter’s life while you take care of you.
As a single dad, you may also encounter conversations with your daughter that would be best discussed with a female figure in her life, such as menstruation, puberty, birth control and dating. It’s completely alright, and often wise, to ask for help from a trusted female role model or a medical professional.
Let your daughter know that you can work together to find the right person to talk to about girl-centric topics, if it would make her more comfortable. However, don’t shy away from these topics just because you’re her dad. You can play a role in breaking the stigmas surrounding men and these conversations if you are confident and attentive while you learn about them together.
Connecting with your daughter as a single dad can be foreign territory, but as long as you stay involved, you’ll be able to stay close and build a strong, healthy relationship with her for years to come.
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. Her focus is topics related to women’s health and she is interested in research that can help women feel better in all phases of their life. When she isn’t writing or travelling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.
Other useful links for single dads of daughters:
- How to strengthen your dad-daughter relationship
- Find a mentor for your daughter
- Single parent holidays with teenagers
- Where to meet other single mums and dads for friendship and support
- How fathers and daughters can talk about period and puberty
- Period talk and best tampons for beginners
- Money saving ideas for single parents
- Finding a new relationship