There’s a lot of talk about how important a man’s influence is in raising a son, but we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of having a strong father-daughter relationship as well.
As the saying goes, “A dad is his daughter’s first love,” and a positive bond can impact a young girl’s self-esteem, confidence, body image, and how she expects to be treated by men.
Fortunately, men are stepping up to the plate more than ever and becoming increasingly involved in child-rearing—but often as girls mature, dads are unsure of how to continue building a relationship. When young girls start developing physically and the hormones start surging, dads often distance themselves, despite the fact that many experts cite that this is a pivotal time in the father-daughter relationship.
Dads need to continue building open and honest relationships centered on trust, affection, and support for the person she is becoming, and the simplest way to do that is by spending quality time together.
According to Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood — Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy: “He must, first and foremost, treat his daughter with respect and love. Whether or not he is married to or still together with his daughter’s mom, showing respect to her mother is essential as well,” explains Austin. “He must also value women as human beings, and not as persons to be used. Daughters will see what their dads believe about women by how they value and respect women, or by how they fail to do so.”
So, what are some great ways for dads and daughters to spend time together? We asked some of our favorite dads, and here are 20 great ideas for things you can do starting today:
- Teach a life skill. There are so many important things girls should know before they leave the nest. Spend some time showing your daughter how to change a tire, hang a picture, or grill a burger.
- Work out together. Girls who exercise regularly have higher self-esteem, and working out together can keep you both motivated.
- Take a selfie. Young girls often love capturing a selfie wherever they are, so go ahead and partake in that activity whenever you can.
- Share your playlist. Go ahead and share your love of Metallica, but don’t forget to listen to her favorite bands, too.
- Have a regular weekly date. Go for fro-yo every Tuesday or a drive on Sundays—try to carve out some time just for the two of you. She’ll never forget that you took time out of your schedule just for her.
- Introduce her to your favorite childhood movies.
- Build something. Show your daughter you believe she can do anything by encouraging her to use her hands on a project. Whether it’s a birdhouse, a robot, or coding a new game, continue to push your daughter to bust stereotypes.
- Plan a father-daughter trip. Whether it’s adventuring to a new playground or exploring a city over the weekend, travel is a great way to bond.
- Camp in the backyard. Grab your flashlights, roast some s’mores, pitch a tent, and make the memories happen.
- Cook. Teach her how to make your world-famous scrambled eggs or your Napalm Buffalo Wings—and that you know how to clean up after yourself as well.
- Attend a tea party. Real men play pretend with their kids. They get bonus points if they wear a feather boa and a crown.
- Go for a walk and have the talk. While it’s OK to let mom start the conversation about a young girl’s changing body, dads should be involved as well. Keep the dialogue open with your daughter by using the right anatomical terms, addressing questions about puberty and sex directly, and (trying) not be embarrassed about topics such as body hair, menstruation, and breasts. If you acknowledge what she is going through with respect, your daughter will most likely respect herself. Still struggling? Here’s a great book to help you out: Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast.
- Teach her your favorite sport or hobby. Sometimes even the best-intentioned dads get stuck over gender norms. Your daughter can take ballet and learn about first downs or play with dolls and know what a transmission is. The objective is to stay connected.
- Read to her early and often. Books are a great way dads can bond with their daughters. As she grows, encourage her to join you whenever you plop down to read a magazine or a new novel.
- Learn how to do her hair. While letting mom do it on picture day is a good idea, dads should be able to help their daughters with basic grooming.
- Dance. Nothing is more special to a young girl than dancing with the man of her dreams. Whenever you have the opportunity, dance with your daughter.
- Show her where you work—and introduce her to female role models whenever you can. No matter what your job is, show her how hard you work to provide for your family, and how you talk her up to all of your co-workers.
- If possible, show her where you grew up. Take her to your favorite playgrounds and let her see the house where you were born. Roots are just as important as wings.
- Drive her to her activities. Take advantage of the car rides to catch up on her life, and show her you care about what interests her.
- Shop. I know, I know, this is like the worst, but helping your daughter pick out the perfect dress or outfit gives you an opportunity to acknowledge that she is beautiful in your eyes, and every girl deserves that. So suck it up, Dad, and create those memories.