Dates with dad: 5 ways to reconnect with your daughter
By Krystyann Krywko, Ed. D.
Daughters and dads have a unique relationship. There is that moment in the hospital when a dad first holds his daughter and his eyes and heart go soft with love and a promise to be there for her always. The toddler years are filled with chubby hands clasping onto Dad’s finger as she begins to take first steps; playing in the park; airplane rides on the carpet; and curling up for afternoon naps.
Fast forward to the tween years when mood swings, eye-rolling, and changing bodies can make for strained and awkward relationships between dads and daughters. The tenderness and intimacy of father-daughter relationships often disappears at this time as some dads begin to pull away feeling their daughter needs time to be independent and to figure things out for herself. Wrong! This is exactly when your daughter needs you the most.
Generally speaking, dads have an easier time connecting with their sons – after all you already understand “guy stuff”. But the time you spend with your daughter and the relationship you create will have a lasting impact. Research shows that a daughter’s confidence, body image, and career and college aspirations are influenced by the amount of time she spends with her father.
“Fathers help daughters become more competent, more achievement-oriented, and more successful, says Meg Meeker, M.D., pediatrician and author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know.
Men often have a very different parenting style than women do, which helps their children acquire different skills and see things from an alternative perspective.
Fathers generally have high expectations for their child and hold her to those expectations consistently. They are not as concerned with making their child feel good and instead focus more on challenging her and by preparing them for situations that might arise in the real world..
One of the best ways to begin to reconnect with your daughter is to spend time with her. Find time once a week to do something with your daughter. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Share a meal: It might be breakfast at the diner Saturday morning; coffee and bagels on a park bench; dressing up to go to a new restaurant; or whipping up a new recipe together. The time you spend connecting over food can be a low key way to start having father daughter time.
2. Connect over a hobby: It can be your hobby or hers, but finding an activity that you can both immerse yourself in can be another way to add depth to your relationship and gives you something to talk about when other topics might not be so comfortable. “I have always been an avid woodworker and used to spend Saturdays with both my children in my shop,” says Hugh, “ my son has moved on to other interests, but my daughter and I still spend time planning and working on projects. It’s a whole different way for her to use her creativity.”
3. Learn something new: If there are no hobbies where you can find a mutual interest try an activity that is new for you both. This can start with taking a class together or renting equipment to try out a new sport like snowboarding.
4. Travel Together: This doesn’t have to be fancy – it can be as simple as planning a camping trip, or a road trip to the next town. “Trips with my dad were always special,” says Karmen, “We used to travel a lot together when we were in high school and he always wanted to different things than when I went on trips with my mom.”
5. Challenge yourselves: Uniting around a common goal where both you and your daughter work together is another way to deepen your connection. Work on raising money for a charity, train together for a 5K, or commit to volunteering at a soup kitchen for a year. Jim and Kristen Brozina challenged each other when they made a promise to read together for 100 consecutive nights.
Whether you are the father of a toddler or the father of a daughter who is set to graduate from high school, making it a priority to spend time together will build memories and bonds that will last a lifetime.
Krystyann Krywko, Ed. D. is the author of Late Onset Hearing Loss: A Parent's Perspective and is an educational researcher, freelance journalist and speaker. firstname.lastname@example.org