The assurance this dad both had and lends to his daughter beautifully illustrates the impact of the dad-daughter bond. Imagine a nervous, yet mostly supportive, loving father dismissing fear to ensure his, yet still, sweet baby girl’s courage and confidence in her dreams. A forehead kiss of approval, a wink of assurance, a conversation chock-full of wisdom, or just time together doing a terrifying activity simply affirm a steady, enduring relationship. How will this steadfast love and support from her father impact her life? Her choices? Her relationships?
Why are dads important?
Family relationships during childhood contribute are the most important in the development of a child. In particular, the influence of a father on his daughter has the ability to impact her peer relationships, romantic relationships, and decision-making skills. This father-daughter relationship is significant throughout a daughter’s lifetime; however, research tells us that early adolescence may be the most crucial time for developing and nurturing the dad-daughter bond. Adolescence is often where children experience closeness or distance in their family relationships. Father engagement, then, isn’t simply the physical presence of a male figure in the home; rather, it’s most meaningful as the accessibility to, active engagement with, and responsibility for ones child. It’s the quality of the father-daughter relationship that creates the greatest difference.
The effect of fathers on their children is undeniable, and it offers healthy psychological development, identity exploration, and the development of personal values. Specifically, the father-daughter bond has been shown to affect daughters’ educational pursuits, development of healthy peer relationships, prospective romantic partners, as well as sexual self-esteem. Daughters who feel more secure with their dads report a more loving and satisfying dad-daughter relationship. Additionally, daughters who were less satisfied with their communication with their fathers were more likely to be involved in risky behaviors and unhealthy relationships. Therefore, fathers help to shape their daughters’ understanding of relationships with others as well as their relationship with themselves.
Why dads are sometimes overlooked?
For most Americans, the concepts of father, fatherhood, or fathering elicit different reactions from the concepts of mother, motherhood, and mothering. Many associate mothering with warm, fuzzy, nurtured feelings, whereas the term fathering is often associated with feelings of something stronger, colder, harder, and less loving. Mothers have been largely recognized as primary caregivers- the ones responsible for the creating and maintaining bonds. As a result, media and entertainment often promote and popularize images of powerful mothers and often portray fathers as ancillary or unnecessary. However, with more moms working just as much as dads, if not more, than ever before, shifts in household make-up and role responsibility have led to fathers finally being recognized as having a comparable impact on their children, specifically their daughters.
Tips for establishing/re-establishing a father-daughter bond:
1) Listen to her! Most healthy father-daughter relationships incorporate active listening and active engagement. In other words, spend time just listening to her dreams, ambitions, goals, stories, or whatever she’s willing to share. Listening is a useful tool that communicates value. (Dads, check out: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker)
2) Make time for fun! Research shows us that the more time spent, invested, and coveted, the healthier the bond. But, these don’t have to be mindless hours of nothing. Do something fun! Get outdoors, find an activity, or help with a local service project. Whatever you do, make it fun! (For toddlers and dads at bedtime check out Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang)
3) Be generous with affirmation and encouragement. Tell her what she does well or that she’s beautiful, or that she’s unique OFTEN. Research shows us that support, encouragement, and affirmation helps shape a child’s sense of self. This means that the words you say to her and about her matter! Be careful with criticism and liberal with love and support.
4) Be open to difficult conversations! Historically, mothers have engaged in much of the “risky behavior” conversations with daughters such as sex and drug usage. However, healthy dialogue with daughters from their fathers regarding these topics often leads to healthier decision-making. So, if you want her to choose wisely talk to her about it openly and honestly. She will benefit!
5) Model healthy relationships for her! With the divorce rate at about 50% in the United States, it is not uncommon for many fathers to live outside of the home his children reside in. Therefore, pay careful attention to how you treat, not only your daughter, but also the other partner(s) that may be in your life. Modeling healthy partnerships will demonstrate healthy boundaries, realistic expectations, and secure love.
Whether you’re an expectant father or fathering an adolescent, the impact of that role is undeniable and unique. Fathers offer incredible support, affirmation, and modeling for their daughter’s physical, mental, and emotional development. It could be the assurance she needs to chase her dreams, or the nerves you subdue in an effort to reinforce your confidence in her aviation skills--who she chooses to become depends on that continued investment. So go for it dad, support your girl!