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Dads and Daughters: Strengthening the Bond

IMAGE Dads play a critical role in their daughters' development, yet many dads underestimate their significance. According to psychologist Margo Maine, PhD, author of Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and Food, men often "feel the pressure around economics, but don't realize they have a broader role [within the family]."

What Can Fathers Do?

Start Early

Father-daughter closeness begins when your daughter is born. Remember that dads can be just as nurturing and as good at child-rearing as moms! Sharing parenting responsibilities and interacting with your daughter are the beginnings of a positive relationship.

Focus on Puberty and Relationships

Comments and interactions can help or hinder how a girl accepts her body and sexuality, shaping her social interactions with males. By acknowledging your daughter's development, encouraging romances, and painting a realistic picture of yourself, you may be able to increase the odds of your daughter being self-confident and capable of forming positive relationships with men.

Dr. Maine adds, "It's really important [that] girls get grounded in a relationship with men early on, one where they can feel respected and valued."

Pay Special Attention to School

A study done by the National Center for Education Statistics looked at the link between fathers' participation in school activities and children's academic success. Co-author Jerry West says, "In general, we find better outcomes for students whose fathers are involved."

Create a routine where you check in with your daughter about her education:

  • How is she doing in school overall?
  • Which classes does she excel in?
  • Is she struggling with any subjects?

Forming positive parent-teacher relationships can also go a long way in helping your daughter meet her academic goals.

Teach Self-Reliance

As a dad, you can teach assertiveness, methods for successfully dealing with authority figures, and ways to interact in a team environment. These are skills your daughter will need in the academic and business worlds.

What if you feel that you are lacking in these skills? That is not a problem! There are many opportunities—from reading self-help books to joining a support group—to learn more about self-reliance. And by taking the time to improve yourself, you will be modeling positive behavior for your daughter.

Other Tips to Strengthen the Bond

There are many other ways you can build a strong father-daughter relationship. Experts recommend that you:

  • Spend time alone with your daughter.
  • Talk to each other and express feelings.
  • Find ways to participate in your daughter's life.
  • Attend school functions.
  • Take your daughter to work.
  • Car pool or run errands together.
  • Encourage your daughter's pursuits.
  • Laud your daughter's accomplishments, rather than just her physical attributes.
  • Develop an awareness of media portrayals of women and discuss them with your children.
  • Show respect for women.

Keep in mind that, as your daughter grows and matures, the two of you will find different ways to strengthen the bond. While each year brings new challenges, it can also bring new ways to create a stronger relationships with your daughter.

  • National Fatherhood Initiative

    http://www.fatherhood.org/

  • Parenting.org

    http://www.parenting.org/

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html

  • Parenting Network

    http://www.parentingnetwork.ca/

  • Lopez-Duran N. Father-daughter bond affects the daughters' romantic relationshilps. Child Psych website. Available at: http://www.child-psych.org/2009/05/father-daughter-bonds-and-future-dromantic-relationships.html. Published May 27, 2011. Accessed September 19, 2011.

  • Maine M. Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, and Food. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books; 1991.

  • Tips for parents: raising girls for resilience and optimism. Davidson Institute for Talent Development website. Available at: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles%5Fid%5F10529.aspx. Accessed September 19, 2011.

  • Tips for raising healthy daughters. Parents: The Anti-drug website. Available at: http://myantidrug.org/advice/teens-today/girls-drugs/tips-raising-healthy-daughters.aspx. Accessed September 19, 2011.