If you are a single dad who is bravely and lovingly raising daughters on your own, firstly, cheers to you. The fact that you are raising your biggest accomplishment singlehandedly shows that you are both dedicated and supportive.
However, as if co-parenting weren’t hard enough, being the sole provider and emotional support for your daughter is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There are some areas of being a single dad that can leave you scratching your head. For instance, what do you do when your princess comes to you with questions about “that time of the month,” or asks you how to go about buying the proper bra? While many fathers simply direct their daughters to go ask their mothers, you may not have that luxury.
Don’t get discouraged, as plenty of fathers are able to develop a healthy relationship with their daughters that is honest, communicative, and helpful. It’s also important to realize that not even mothers have an answer or explanation for everything. This should take some pressure off of you.
So, how do you deal with parenting alone? There are a few simple steps you can take when you are confronted with questions and issues that leave you feeling like a deer in the headlights.
Accept and Admit that You Don’t Know it All
Most daughters look to their fathers as the “hero,” the man with all the answers. However, they can also resent a father who pretends to know it all. This makes you “unrelatable.” By assuming that you know everything your daughter is thinking and feeling, you automatically cancel out any opportunities for her to express herself to you.
Avoid this by letting your daughter know that you are learning alongside her. By making her feel that she is not alone in her struggles, you are communicating to your daughter that you both empathize and support her. This will mean far more to her than a quick Google search answer.
“Dad, what kind of feminine pad am I supposed to use during my period?” If this question trips you up, you are not alone. The difference between you and other fathers is how you react. One of the worst things you can do is claim ignorance and send her to the store alone, afraid, and embarrassed, simply because you are uneducated or freaked out by the question. The best way to overcome these types of situations is to firstly empathize with your daughter and let her know you’re there for her. Secondly, involve her in the research process. Go to the store with her and take the time to explore everything necessary to what she needs.
Opening the lines of communication between you and your daughter means you are inviting yourself to be a part of her life. She will be more willing to come to you with pertinent issues in the future if she knows she will not be shut down or ignored. Heck, you might also learn a new thing or two regarding the nature of women by gaining a deeper understanding of what they go through during adolescence.
If your daughter does not have a strong relationship with her mother, it can be extremely rewarding to use this as an opportunity to show her how strong she is capable of being. In a society where women are gaining traction in the workplace, especially in male-dominated fields, this is your moment to instill resilient behaviors and grit that will put her ahead of the game in the long run.
For example, next time you take a trip to the hardware store, don’t assume that it would bore your daughter. Instead, involve her in the process. Although it is no guarantee she will be interested in this type of activity, the fact that you are expressing a desire to spend quality time with her and involve her in adult tasks will be much appreciated later on down the road. For instance, she may gripe about having to learn how to change her own tire at first, but the first flat tire she gets, she will be thanking the universe that her dad took time to teach her.
On the flip side, when it comes to issues like femininity, makeup, dating, etc., your involvement and participation in these milestones are empowering for your daughter as well. This is not suggesting that you sit down and let your daughter complete a makeup tutorial look on you. This is to merely advise you to perhaps ask questions about what her favorite makeup is, why she chose a certain technique, or even take her on a makeup shopping spree (probably one of the best ways to earn teenage daughter points).
By showing her that the issues she is facing are important to you, you are building her self-esteem and worthiness as a female. A common weak point in parts of society is belittling the nature of women and femininity; however, by acknowledging its importance to you, you are raising her level of confidence as a young woman.
Find a Female Confidant
If you are struggling to find ways to effectively communicate and help your daughter in areas that are completely foreign to you, it is profoundly helpful to join forces with another woman or motherly figure with whom you are able to instill great trust. This could be a female relative, a close coworker, or a neighbor. You need to make sure she is someone who is a consistent part of your life and someone you and your daughter can grow in a trusting relationship with.
Do not confuse this bit of advice with the idea of merely finding an adult female figure to take your place in important parental matters. Rather, she should serve as your female liaison who can help bridge the gap of communication between you and your daughter. She should be someone who you can openly call or text when there is an issue you have no idea how to handle, but also someone who can go prom dress shopping and provide an honest second opinion.
Most importantly, if you do decide to include a mother figure into your father-daughter equation, always make sure you are the main source of conversation and advice. Again, the most important factor is that your daughter learns early on to have a strong relationship with you, not a third party. If this becomes the case, some essential issues may come up but you might never hear about them.
A Present Dad is a Great Dad
Although no two daughters are alike, most daughters and children in general simply need to feel that they are cared for and listened to by their parents. You are a bigger part of your daughter’s life and emotional well-being more than you realize. In fact, girls who have a strong relationship with their fathers are statistically destined to succeed when it comes to relationships, money management, and mental health.
Therefore, the next time you feel intimidated or discouraged by your lack of partnership when parenting your daughters alone, remember the vital role you play and that you’re doing the best job simply by being her dad.