Being a single parent is one of the hardest challenges that many people face; there is nothing easy about being responsible for the life of another human being all on your own. What adds to the terror for many dads, is being a single father to a daughter. Ask any man and they will tell you that women speak an entirely different language and that there is relatively nothing understandable about them. Hand a father a little girl to raise on his own and he now has to adjust from football gear to tutus, Sunday football to Cinderella, and Sports Illustrated to fairy tales. Clearly this would be a challenge for any man; and this is only the beginning. Raising a female toddler is a cake walk compared to raising a female teenager.
So what’s a father to do? How in the world do you raise your little girl to become a woman without having another one in the house to set the example? How do you make sure that you are giving her what she needs and not somehow messing her up? Step 1: relax. Step 2: keep reading.
Ask for Help
Ask a group of single dads with daughters how they did it, and 99% of them will tell you that they had some sort of female mentor as their sidekick. Girls need another female present to help them with a number of things; there are just some things that they aren’t comfortable discussing with dad no matter how close your relationship might be. Often another family member such as a grandmother, aunt, or even a close family friend can help you and help your daughter as well. Just knowing that she has someone she can go to for advice or just to talk at any time will make things easier for her and for you.
If there is no female family present, you could try searching for help from other women that appear strong, confident, and capable. This could be a teacher, coach, religious leader, or one of her friends’ mothers. Any female can offer help in so many ways so long as your daughter is comfortable talking to her, and you are sure that she will be a good role model.
Open and Honest Communication
Men have a tendency to want to fix things. No matter what the issue is, what damage has been done, or how they really feel, all they know is that the situation must be fixed. When you have a daughter relying on you as her sole support, Mr. Fix It must take a back seat to Mr. Talk Through It.
When men carry on a conversation, they listen to the other person for as long as it takes to identify the problem. Once the issue is clearly understood, they stop listening and immediately begin offering solutions to the problem. Single dads be warned: 99% of the time, women already know how to fix the problem; they just need to talk it to death first. A vital step towards solving problems is talking about it over and over, and all you need to do is listen. Resist the urge to fix it, and just listen.
The same is true when it comes to talking with your daughter. You cannot simply tell her what to do; you have to listen to her side, and offer suggestions. Allow her to take your advice and make the best possible decision she can. Keep communication as open as possible; she needs to know that she can come to you for help and advice and will not be judged or shut down.
Resist the Urge to Rescue
Dads all want to be their daughters’ hero; they want to rush in and rescue her from anything and everything that could possibly harm her in any way. While this is perfectly normal and very sweet, the problem is that your daughters will never learn to do things on their own, and learning to solve their own problems is a vital part of growing up. Generally, mom will make sure that dad gives his daughter some distance and lets her work things out, even though it’s hard for him to watch her struggle. Without mom there to rein dad in, he may feel the need to rescue his little damsel in distress far more often than necessary.
Even though it kills you to watch her suffer, remind yourself that this particular suffering is nothing compared to what she will go through later in life if she doesn’t learn to solve her own problems now. Guide her, listen to her, and let her know you support her, but leave it up to her to make decisions and solve problems.
Be Actively Involved
Don’t just be a spectator in your daughter’s life, always watching from a distance but never really taking part in it. While it’s always easier to be involved in your son’s life of sports, girls, and cars, your daughter needs you now too, and it’s up to you to be there for her. The more you strive to be a part of your little girl’s life, the better your relationship will be. You will still have problems along the way, but you are much more likely to be able to talk through them and avoid the majority of over-emotional teenage girl drama.
Simply asking her about her day is not enough; you must be actively involved in her life. Get to know her friends, attend events that she’s taking part in, see movies that she wants to, offer to take her shopping on occasion, and anything else that your daughter enjoys that you can be a part of. Women are emotional and they expect you to know how they feel. While you are definitely no mind reader, you will be able to build a better relationship with your daughter if you really get to know and understand her.
Find ways today to be a part of her life and spend time together. If you put your involvement off until tomorrow, you’ll find yourself walking a complete stranger down the aisle and hating yourself for not giving your little girl the time and attention she so deserves.