She was a daddy's girl before she could walk or talk. You knew that the sun rose and set in the loving looks you bestowed upon your little girl.
But then, you and her mother divorced. Your time with her was limited. She hit the tween years where being "Daddy's girl" was no longer so cool. Now, she's in her early teens and the ever-widening gap between the two of you seems more like a chasm every day. Is there any way to reconnect with your beloved daughter?
Dads have lifelong roles in daughters' lives
The important thing is not to give up hope and to keep working to re-establish your father daughter bond. It may also help to realize that this pulling away during adolescence is entirely normal and to be expected at this stage of your daughter's development. Below are some tips to help you forge an even stronger bond with your child.
- Listen more than you speak. If you want your daughter to open up to you, you have to be prepared to really listen. Otherwise, your constant admonitions and overprotective prattle will begin to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher going, "Wah wah wah wah . . ."
- Don't be stingy with the praise. Tweens and teens struggle mightily with self-image. Some days, they can feel like the world's biggest loser. Make sure that you let your daughter know that she is both pretty and smart, that she has wonderful qualities that make her unique, special and well-loved.
- Follow her lead. Maybe the two of you always connected on the golf course, with you giving her tips on how to improve her swing. But now, her interests have changed. She might prefer a day spent with you on the rock-climbing wall or kite-surfing on the lake.
- Make sure she sees you as an ally. Your daughter will likely encounter some unpleasant facts of life as she grows and matures. She may experience bullying, harassment, discrimination or even sexual assault. While these problems may be too big to be solved with a hug and a Band-aid, your daughter should always feel free to come to you with her problems.
- Model healthy relationships. The easiest way for your daughter to develop healthy personal and intimate relationships is to see those relationships modeled by her parents. Make sure that she sees that you treat women with love and respect so she will realize that she is worthy of same.
Take action when necessary
Sometimes, a parent-child relationship can be eroded by factors outside of your control. In some cases, this can be parental alienation by the child's other parent. In those cases, it may be necessary to revisit the custody arrangements to solve the problem.