Fathers and Teen Daughters
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Fathers and Teen Daughters

As girls grow up, they need their dads more than ever.

The Greatest Gift

The most important gift a father can offer a daughter is time. The gift of time communicates acceptance and builds a girl's confidence.

Learn about her interests.

Grab a calendar. Spend time with her. If you don't already have a regular visitation day, try scheduling a weekly activity, like visiting the library, volunteering, or cooking Sunday breakfast.

Do something hands-on. Help her learn life skills such as tennis, canoeing, or mowing the lawn. Girls who have these experiences are less intimidated by competition and are more ambitious, says Ron Klinger, founder of the Center for Successful Fathering in Austin, Texas.

Feed her interests. Whether it's a gymnastics meet, a musical recital, or a math contest, a dad can support his daughter by attending her events and cheering her on, and learning to enjoy the activity. If you're divorced but on good terms with your ex, ask her to keep you informed of upcoming events if your daughter is less than comnmunicative.

Connect One-on-One

A hug from Dad means a lot.

Although it can be difficult at times, keep the lines of communication open.

Be ready to talk. Encourage conversation with open-ended questions, such as, "How is it going?" Or try specific questions, such as, "How did you do on that math test?" But remember that quality conversations can't be scheduled, so you have to be available.

Compliment her. Build up her confidence in her changing appearance. Say "You are really cute" or "I like the way you did your hair today," for example. Avoid teasing or criticizing her looks.

Keep up the hugs. Body language tells just as much the spoken variety. As a girl's body matures, there can be awkward moments. But appropriate, loving hugs feed a need that girls have.

Conquering Conflicts

Listen, don't push.

Problems and conflicts are a natural part of parenting. You'll find it is easier to make sense of what your daughter is saying if you listen for the emotions behind the words.

Listen without judging. Take the time to ask questions and understand before you react.

Confront problems privately. Don't discuss your feelings about her new boyfriend in front of others. Ask her for some one-on-one time to talk through the problem. Be slow to anger, and withhold criticism.

Respect her space. Stop lecturing. Don't try to tell her what to do. Don't try to push too hard. It's your job as a father to convince her through your actions that you are there and that you love and support her.

How Moms Can Help

Mothers -- whether married or divorced -- can play an important role in helping dads develop a stronger relationships with growing daughters.

For example, keeping dads informed and part of decision-making can help them stay connected with their daughters. If you know that your daughter has a big test on a particular day, e-mail or telephone Dad so he can be better prepared to discuss it that evening. Similarly, if a ig event like a dance or sporting event is coming up, tell Dad about it at a time when he can write it down in his calendar. Avoid taking everything on, even if you know you can handle it; withholding information puts your child's father out of the loop.

Make sure Dad and daughter have time alone. For divorced families this is often easy, as visits may be scheduled in advance. When the time comes, step back and respect the dad's approach -- even if it is different. And if dad is having a hard time articulating his love to his daughter, you might offer, "Your dad is your biggest fan."

Finally, avoid putting down your daughter's dad or men in general. This kind of talk sets up your daughter not to connect with her dad, and it gives the man false justification for not trying to relate to his daughter. The negative reverberations may be felt years hence, in your daughter's future relationships with other men in her life.