Fathers have it rough when it comes to their daughters. They’ve never gone through puberty as a female, so they have no idea the feelings that run through us, the embarrassment and awkwardness we feel, and they often don’t know how to deal with the body changes. Some of them are fortunate enough to be able to let their daughter’s mother deal with the majority of it. But for fathers that can’t let their daughter’s mother handle it, or who just want to be more connected and in touch with what their daughter is dealing with, here’s a few things that daughters would like their dads to know:
1. Even if I’m a tomboy, I’m still a girl.
Your daughter might not wear skirts, she might ignore perfume and make-up, climb trees and watch football with you. But she’s not your son. She’s a girl and wants to be treated that way, at least sometimes. Find “girly” things to do with her as well. Maybe she likes “chick flick” movies, or wants to take ballet classes.
2. I don’t want to talk to you about my period, but I have to talk to somebody.
This is important, Dad. We know you are uncomfortable with the idea of talking to your daughter about her period and all that goes with it. But she’s no more comfortable with it than you are. But somebody’s got to talk to her. As hard as it may be to believe, knowing what to do is not instinctive. If she’s unprepared, that first sign of blood may freak her out and she certainly won’t know what to do with feminine hygiene products. Yes, they come with instructions, but your daughter’s going to feel even more alone and scared if you simply shove a box in her face and ignore it.
Read books, research online, and learn about the female body and the menstrual cycle. If you are really that uncomfortable and just cannot bring yourself to talk to her, and you have no women in your family or life that she can talk to, consider letting her join Girl Scouts – with female leaders and surrounded by other girls her age, even if they don’t bring it up, she may find herself more comfortable approaching her troop leader, or you can even ask the leader if she can help you out.
3. I don’t want to talk to you about sex, either, but if you don’t tell me, who will?
Especially for single fathers who’ve been abandoned by their daughter’s mother or her mother has passed on, this is crucial. Yes, we know how disturbing it is to you to think about your daughter and sex in the same thought – imagine how it is for her to think of you and sex in the same thought, and then to realize that you think of her and sex. But if you don’t talk to her, she’s going to talk to her friends. Her friends are no more knowledgeable than she is.
Do you want her getting secondhand, wrong information? Or would you rather suck it up and talk to her so she has accurate information? Plus, you’re in a special position here: As a man, you are ideally suited to telling her exactly what teenage boys think and how they view sex. Your words can stick in her mind when her boyfriend is trying to convince her he loves her and won’t leave her. It’s also important that you cover protection – all its forms, and make sure she knows that she can talk to you if she needs to.
4. Just because I asked for the pill doesn’t mean I’m having sex.
Were you aware that many forms of birth control are also used to regulate periods, or to alleviate heavy bleeding? If your daughter comes to you and asks for birth control, ask why before you jump to conclusions. She may be having an issue with her period that she wants to fix. If you find birth control in the house, again, ask before jumping to conclusions. There may be another very valid reason, other than sex, that she has it. Jumping to conclusions will only push her away and make her less likely to talk to you.
5. I don’t know why I’m crying either.
Hormones are out of control during puberty. These hormones make it very difficult for your daughter to control her emotions. She will seem overly sensitive one moment, crying at the drop of a hat, only to be angry a minute later, for no apparent reason. You’re baffled by this and trying to figure out what you said or did to bring this on, but she’s just as confused. Don’t try to tell her she shouldn’t feel that way, or to understand every time she cries, gets angry, or has some other seemingly out-of-context emotion. Make sure she knows you’ll listen if and when she needs/wants to talk, and then be there when she comes to you.
6. I’m your daughter, not your wife, maid, or mother.
Not all single fathers are guilty of this, but some do, even unintentionally, end up acting like their daughter is one of these things. She may have tried to help out after her Mom left or passed on by cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry. Dad may not even realize that he’s come to count on her to do this, or may come to demand it of her. But it is important to remember that she is still a child. She’s your child, and she needs to be able to act like it. She needs responsibility, of course, as all children do.
But you need to be sure those responsibilities are in line with those expected of any child her age. You can swap cooking duties with her, or tell her to do her own laundry but you will do your own. Also, depending on her age, don’t expect her to act as a built-in babysitter for your younger children either. It’s fine to ask her, but respect that she has her own life as well.
7. As scary as it is, you have to let me go.
Sometimes single parents worry about when to let their children walk home from the bus stop alone, go to a sleepover at a friend’s, or start dating. They fear they haven’t properly prepared their child, or they feel they’ve missed out on their child’s childhood and simply aren’t ready to let go. But you must. She may always be your baby, but the fact is one day she will be a woman on her own. It’s better to let her have some dating experience, as well as some independence-building moments now when you’re still able to guide her if she begins to veer down the wrong path. If she does it after she’s out of your house and on her own, she may not come to you until it’s too late.
8. I don’t want to meet every woman you date, and I really, really don’t want to have to pretend to like the ones I do meet.
Single parents are certainly entitled to date. But it’s important to remember your children’s feelings, too. Daughters can be especially susceptible to hurt and confusion when Dad starts dating. Whether her mother has walked away or passed away, it’s likely your daughter may feel some guilt about liking a new woman in your life. More importantly, though, if her mother has walked away, she may feel as though she needs to pretend to like your dates so that you won’t leave her too.
It’s important to make sure your daughter knows that she is still your priority and that no woman you date will ever be more important than she is. Encourage her to tell you the truth about how she feels about women you date and only introduce her to a woman when you are beginning to think this may be a long-term relationship. If she tells you she doesn’t like a woman you’re dating, hear her out on her reasons; you may be surprised by what your daughter sees that you overlooked.
9. Please don’t try to pretend I’m still a baby.
As much as you might want to pretend your little girl is still your little girl, the fact is she’s growing up and you need to treat her that way. Don’t buy her a Barbie doll when she’s sixteen (unless she specifically asks for it). Respect that her style of dress may not be what you would choose. Naturally, if you feel a clothing item is too revealing or otherwise inappropriate, you should certainly put your foot down and refuse to buy it or let her wear it. But just because it isn’t to your taste doesn’t mean she shouldn’t wear it. The same applies to make-up and hairstyle, as well as friend choice.
10. I will always be your little girl.
Someday she’ll be all grown up and on her own. And though she’s beginning to look more and more like a grown woman every day, your daughter will always love you and look up to you as her daddy. She’ll drive you nuts as a teen, with anger, tears, attitude, dating boys you may not like, and sometimes breaking the rules. But just remember it’s a part of growing up, a part of pulling away, and it’s perfectly normal. And when all is said and done, she will be grateful that you were there for her when she needed you most.