“A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter for all of her life.” — Unknown
Fathers leave an enduring imprint on the lives of their daughters. It has been said that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.
As a child, I idealized my father, waiting patiently each day until his much-celebrated return from work. He was around less often, and I understood his absences as evidence of his place in the outside world: He was important out there, he was important at home. He shaped my life with rules and guidelines I still follow.
A father-daughter relationship is one of the most important relationships that a girl can have growing up. A woman’s relationship with her father, more than any other, is going to affect her relationships with all other males in her life.
It is important that fathers accept their daughter unconditionally, because girls, especially adolescents, need approval to be given freely. A daughter needs to know that she will be loved even if she does make a mistake. Love should never be contingent upon her being the prettiest, smartest or most perfect. Perfectionism can be devastating to young women. More importantly, when she makes a mistake, make the consequences natural, logical and time limited. Too often I work with adolescent girls who have lost all privileges and their father’s “trust” for indefinite periods of time. As parents and adults we have a tendency to forget that we were once fallible teenagers and made bad decisions ourselves. Fathers can teach their daughters how to overcome failures and mistakes by sharing stories of their failures and embarrassments and by patiently allowing her to learn from her mistakes.
The father-daughter bond does not happen as naturally as we might think, is more fragile than we might hope and is more open to improvement than we might expect. Earnestine Brown said, “Without warmth and support from their fathers, girls may grow up feeling isolated or aggressive.” A good father is affectionate, giving hugs and verbal expressions of love, letting her know that she is loved and respected. Listening compassionately will open you to learning about her hopes and dreams.
One of the most powerful influences you can have on your daughter is your relationship with her mother. If it is one of respect and compassion, it sets the tone for her expectations in future relationships. I have told the divorced parents of teenage girls the reasons for their divorce or their feelings for each other did not matter, what was important was that they be able to work together by showing mutual respect for each other and developing basic rules for their everyday lives. The father-daughter relationship can be a fragile, fantastic lifelong journey.
”Fathers be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do.” — John Mayer
Brenda-Lee Duarte, executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center, 1033 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, 981-7400, is a licensed professional counselor and therapist.