When you hear that the relationship between a father and his daughter will influence her future relationships in life, how does that make you feel? Honestly?
There are no doubts that all parents feel pressure when raising children. Although equally meaningful, the pressures mums and dads feel can differ at times. Whilst mums are usually more vocal about their fears and frustrations, fathers also feel pressure, especially when it comes to meaningfully connecting with their daughters. Feeling unrelatable, feeling time-poor, and trying to be a good role model for her are all fears most fathers face at some point.
After the success of their mother and daughter connection events, The Big Sister Experience have opened up their workshop series to include father-daughter discovery days. These interactive workshops combat these exact issues (and countless more) and guide fathers through the process of becoming more confident in their relationship with their daughter through a range of break off sessions and hands-on activities with their girls.
So how do fathers begin connecting with their daughters in a meaningful and authentic way?
The Big Sister Experience shares these 3 tips to conquering those fears and stepping into your role as the confident, caring and approachable father figure your daughter needs.
1. Be vulnerable and authentic
We are feeling the shift in society as people start recognising the vital role of vulnerability in creating connection. Whilst previously seen as a ‘weakness’, studies are now showing that opening up and showing vulnerability is one of the most successful and genuine ways of connecting with others.
We always encourage vulnerability when working with families, as parents are often worried to let their children see their ‘bad bits.’ We would argue that it’s discussing the good, bad and the ugly that allows your children to see you as a real, relatable and genuine role model. Share the stories of your own struggles, be brave enough to tell her about the time when you were hurt or disappointed, commiserate with your child’s frustration by sharing a time when you felt the same way. These shared experiences will bring you closer together, and show your daughter that you can truly relate to what she is experiencing.
Vulnerability is also powerful when your child doesn’t want to open up to you. Instead of pressuring them into sharing their feelings, open up about a time you also were too worried to share. What lessons did you learn? How did it work out in the end? Did you wish you’d opened up sooner? Leading by example shows our young people that it’s ok to not always be ok, and it’s safe to ask for help or support. Being vulnerable shows your authenticity, and we strongly encourage you to take the leap!
2. Treat her how you want her to be treated
There are many studies that show that either consciously or subconsciously, many women end up in romantic relationships with men who on some level, share similar qualities to their fathers.
So why is that?
Experts say it’s mainly because fathers are the first men to ‘set the standard’ of what it looks and feels like to be loved by a man. If a father treats his daughter like a little princess, is caring, considerate and affectionate, she is likely to seek this out in a partner, as to her this is what love looks like.
Because of this, we would encourage you to be the role model you would like to see your daughter end up with - whether in a romantic relationship, or with platonic males throughout her life. Are you patient, present and compassionate? Do you listen to her, challenge her and tell her you’re proud, or that you love her unconditionally? Many fathers want the very best for their little girls, but don’t realise that the way they interact with their daughter’s mother, and the other women in their life, also play into all that their daughter is feeling and observing. Treat your daughter the way you want her to be treated throughout her life, by all those who cross her path.
3. When you want to step out, lean in
As girls start to change and develop through puberty fathers often find themselves helplessly navigating their way through unchartered territory. The little girl that once doted on his every move or gave him endless affection is suddenly distant and emotional. Knowing their daughter’s mother has first-hand experience in being a girl they take a step back.
Fathers often allow their daughter’s mother to step in to relate to her on a deeper level, to recognise emotional cues and to understand her from a level of experience. It is at this moment in a young girl’s life, usually between the ages of 11-14, where most fathers find themselves wanting to take a step back.
In fact, this is the time when it is vital for them to step up and lean in!
A lot of fathers we speak to step back hoping their little girls will ‘come back to them’ after their hormones have settled and they’ve matured. Although not impossible, it is harder for fathers to open up the doors to a trusting and genuine relationship with their daughter if they weren’t as present during her development through puberty.
Research shows us that girls who have fathers that are present and involved throughout their lives between the ages of 10-16 have higher levels of self-confidence, resilience, a greater sense of belonging and can hugely impact their choice of a future partner.
Although it can be difficult to navigate your way through your daughter’s journey through adolescence, it’s vital for her overall wellbeing that fathers lean in and support them through this period. Don’t forget that your daughter has also never experienced all that she’s going through! So take it as an opportunity to grow together instead of growing apart. Lean in and never underestimate the impact and vital role that your relationship with her plays in her development into a young woman.
The Big Sister Experience is on a mission to inspire the girls of today through self-love and self-confidence to become the resilient, strong and compassionate women of tomorrow. They deliver this through in school workshops, family workshops, community events, professional development for educators, and online membership programs. The Big Sister Experience was founded by real life sisters Bianca and Kritz who share over 14 years teaching experience. They use this teaching experience along with their own life lessons to share relatable, authentic and research-based programs throughout Australia. Please get in touch to see if we can make magic with the young girls and families in your community.
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