Sometimes we’re so busy trying to get though today’s crazed schedule—or preparing for tomorrow’s and the next day’s—that we forget to talk about the most important things. Especially at this time of year.
Here’s a quick and simple exercise, appropriate for Thanksgiving week, to better understand how important you and your daughter or stepdaughter are to each other.Read more
Being the father of a teenage girl can be hard on our pride.
We may not instinctively know what our daughters are trying to tell us. We may feel disrespected by how they communicate.
When my daughters were teenagers, we had emotionally charged conversations that sometimes resulted in one of them angrily and emotionally (or actually) slamming a door on me. Sometimes, my feelings got hurt and my reaction was, “OK, if you’re gonna be like that, I’ll blow you off, too!”Read more
Here's an important message from our friends at the Girl Scouts:
As Congress considers federal research and STEM (Science, Technology, Enginerring, and Math) programs, "Troop Capitol Hill" Co-chairs Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Kay Granger (R-TX) introduced a bipartisan bill to inspire and support girls and underrepresented minorities to enter the STEM workforce.
Whether through divorce, separation, deployment, incarceration, or other circumstances, some fathers & stepfathers don’t live with their kids. But a Live-Away Dad still has huge influence; Here are some tips to have a close, positive and fun relationship.
1. HANG IN THERE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Living away while raising a child is tough, but both her mom and I remain tremendous influences in her life. I meet my responsibilities, including child support, without resentment. I stay calm, committed, loving and loyal toward my child—and do what I can to help her mom do the same.
2. ENCOURAGE BONDS WITH MOM. My child's relationship with his mom is different from him relationship with me. My child needs to participate in it, even when that's hard for me (or him). I encourage communication with mom, recognizing that I'm not responsible for their relationship. If abuse or abandonment happen, my child needs me to protect him, but he also needs to make peace in her life with that relationship.
3. DEVELOP HEALTHY SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS FOR MYSELF. It's normal to struggle with anger, loneliness and other difficult emotions. I meet my adult emotional and social needs maturely with healthy adults; I don't work them out through my child.
4. REMEMBER THAT MY CHILD LIVES IN TWO HOMES. The hours before she leaves my home and after she returns may be times of adjustment and sadness, since she has to leave either parent "behind." I respect that she may or may not want to talk right away about her time with her mom; I let her take the lead. I don't pry for information or play down her feelings.
5. FATHER THE BEST I CAN WHEN MY CHILD IS WITH ME. I can't change how his other parent(s) raise him and I can't make up for what they do or don't do, so I focus on what I can control: my own actions. I don't judge their parenting because no one (including me) is a perfect parent. I trust that all of us are trying our best. I parent him calmly; with clear expectations, affection, patience, love and trust—without demanding perfection. I give him healthy attention when he's with me and when he's away (by phone, text, mail, etc.).
6. DON'T TRASH MOM. In word and gesture, I speak well about my child's mom even when I'm angry at her—and even if her mom speaks poorly about me. If I have trouble speaking well, I wisely say little. Negative talk about my child's mom humiliates and wounds my child, causing her to think less of herself, her mom and me. I keep her out of the middle, even if others don't, and I'll resolve adult conflicts away from her so she can be the child.
7. CO-PARENT WITH MOM. If possible, I communicate openly with his mom. As our child grows up, the other parents' perspectives are valuable—and a real bonus for our child. We work with each other (and our partners) for our child's well-being. When I share my concerns and joys about our child with his mom (and vice versa), our child gets our best and most informed parenting.
8. MY CHILD AND HER MOTHER ARE DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I don't misdirect anger at my ex toward my child. When my child doesn't listen, does less than her best or makes mistakes (normal kid behaviors), I don't confuse her mistakes with her mom's actions. Instead, I honor mistakes as great teachers, and do what I can do to help her learn from her mistakes—and mine.
9. LISTEN TO MY CHILD. Lecturing and arguing get me nowhere. I can't help my child if I minimize his feelings or tell him everything will be okay when I can't guarantee that it will. Instead, I listen and am there for him. I accept my child for who he is; not who I want him to be, think he should be, or think he would be if he were raised only by me. I take the lead in communicating—even when I feel unappreciated—building the emotional connection that will help him listen to me when it really counts.
10. FOCUS ON MY CHILD'S POSITIVES. I don't father by always pointing out what my child did wrong, so she can fix it. That may work on the job, but not with my children. Focusing on negatives undermines her strength and confidence—which may be already stretched by living in two homes.
11. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS WISELY. My child has different rules and expectations in his mother's house. I am patient with his responses to those differences, while remaining clear about my expectations for our home. I try not to compensate for our family situation by giving in to demands that I spoil my child or lessen my expectations just because he is a “child of divorce.” I remember that an honest, solid and lifelong relationship with him is more important than what happens today.
12. BE THE FATHER, NOT THE MOTHER. I am a powerful and encouraging role model, and I tell her she has a special place in my heart. My masculine actions and loving words help her realize that she too can be adventurous, affectionate, playful and successful -- and should expect respect from other honorable men. My belief in her will help her blossom into a young adult who can make her mother and me proud.
Created with William C. Klatte, author of Live-Away Dads: Staying a Part of Your Children’s Lives When They Aren’t a Part of Your Home
- Listen To Girls. I focus on what is really important—what my daughter or stepdaughter thinks, believes, feels, dreams and does—rather than how she looks. I have a profound influence on how my daughter views herself. When I value my daughter for her true self and take her seriously, I give her confidence to use her talents in the world.
Encourage My Daughter’s Strength & Celebrate Her Savvy. I help her learn to recognize, resist and overcome barriers. I help her develop her strengths to achieve her goals, help other people, and help herself. I help her be what Girls Incorporated calls Strong, Smart and Bold!
- Respect Her Uniqueness; Urge Her To Love Her Body & Who She Is. I tell and show my daughter or stepdaughter that I love her for who she is and see her as a whole person, capable of anything. She is likely to choose a life partner who acts like me and has my values. So, I treat her and those she loves with respect. Remember 1) growing girls need to eat often and healthy; 2) fad dieting doesn’t work; 3) she has her body for what it can do, not how it looks. Advertisers spend billions to convince her she doesn’t look “right.” I won’t buy into it.
- Get Her Playing Sports & Being Physically Active. Start young to play catch, tag, jump rope, basketball, Frisbee, hockey, soccer, or just take walks…you name it! I help her learn the great things her body can do. Physically active girls are less likely to get pregnant, drop out of school, or put up with abuse. The most physically active girls have fathers who are active with them!
- Get Involved In Her School. I volunteer, chaperone, read to her class. I ask questions: Does her school use media literacy and body image awareness programs? Does it tolerate sexual harassment of boys or girls? Do more boys take advanced math and science classes and if so, why? (California teacher Doug Kirkpatrick’s girl students didn’t seem interested in science, so he changed his methods and their participation soared!) Are at least half of student leaders girls?
- Get Involved In Her Activities. I volunteer to drive, coach, direct a play, teach a class—anything! I demand equality. Texas mortgage officer and volunteer basketball coach Dave Chapman was appalled by the gym his 9-year-old daughter’s team had to use, so he fought to open the modern “boy’s” gym to the girls’ team. He succeeded. Dads make a difference!
- Help Make The World Safe & Fair For Girls. This world holds dangers for our daughters and stepdaughters. But over-protection doesn’t work, and it tells my daughter that I don’t trust her! Instead, I work with others (especially other dads) to demand an end to violence against females, media sexualization of girls, Neanderthal stereotypes of boys, pornography, advertisers making billions feeding on our daughters’ insecurities, and all gender inequity.
- Take My Daughter To Work With Me. I participate in April’s annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day and make sure my business participates. I show her how I manage money. My daughter will have a job and bills some day, so I introduce her to the world of work and finances!
- Support Positive Alternative Media For Girls. Our family watches programs that portray smart savvy girls. We get healthy girl-edited magazines and websites like New Moon Girls (www.newmoon.com). I don’t just condemn what’s bad; I also support media that support my daughter!
- Learn From Other Fathers. Together, we fathers and stepfathers are walking encyclopedias of experience, expertise and encouragement. I share what I know and listen to the wisdom of other dads. I use and share tools like www.joekelly.org. I’m proud of being a Dad!
Adapted from Dads & Daughters®: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter, by Joe Kelly