He will never forget that magic moment when he first laid eyes on her. Those big beautiful eyes, those tiny fingers and toes -- it was truly love at first sight!
Soon after came the first smile, first words, first steps. It seems like it were yesterday.
So, what happened? How come now there seems like there is so much tension between your daughter and her dad?
He complains that he is lucky if she mumbles a quick “hello” as she runs out the door or up to her room? You feel caught in the middle -- it’s mom versus the two of them.
In reality, much of what she and her father are dealing with is developmental.
By around the age of 13 (for some girls a bit younger, for others a bit older) puberty has begun to take on full force. It is at this time that girls become most aware of their changing bodies. It is also at this time -- early teens, that the hormonal changes in girls' bodies can result in a storm of intense ever changing emotions.
Thankfully, this period is usually short lived. Much of the reason why daughters may act awkward when they are around their dads is because they feel awkward.
So, how can dad reconnect? After all, he misses his little girl.
Let’s start right there and continue on:
She is no longer a little girl; she should not be treated as one. Dad can demonstrate his understanding of this by listening carefully to what she has to say. When he respects her opinions, even if he disagrees, he will clearly send this message. He should also ask for her input. Finally he should discuss, not dictate.
He should avoid asking personal questions especially about her social life (e.g. if she likes any boys). This sort of questioning can make teenage girls feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. If she engages her dad in this type of conversation, he should be honest and act interested. He should refrain from using the conversation as an opportunity to lecture or judge. If he does need to talk to her about sensitive topics such as dating rules and/or hygiene issues, he should explain why he must talk with her. If these topics make him uncomfortable, he should be honest about how he is feeling. This may ease some of the anxiety for both of them.
He should avoid trying to improve his relationship with her by siding with her when she is having conflicts with you and/or step-parents. It is important for parents of teens to present as a unified front. If there is disagreement among parents and and/or step-parents it should be discussed in private until an agreement is reached.
He should create opportunities for connection. Perhaps the two of them have a common interest such as a favorite sports team or musician. He should invite your daughter to join him in watching the game or going to a concert. The two of them should establish a specific night of the week that is reserved just for the two of them. They may choose to go out for dinner or watch a movie on TV. Regardless of how he chooses to spend time with her, the more routine this becomes, the greater opportunity he will have to re-connect with your daughter.
Dads should never underestimate their influence on their daughters. They are an important role model for their daughters.
It may be difficult for him to acknowledge that she is no longer daddy’s little girl anymore, but she will always his daughter. How wonderful it is to have a hand in helping her to grow into the woman she aspires to be!
Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual." They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.