Dads, this one is for you:
Your teenage daughter needs you. I know you often feel irrelevant while she’s this age. She is so busy. She’s out with her friends, focused on school, starting to become independent, etc. She still needs you. It seems like she doesn’t care much about what you think anymore. In fact, she might be rude to you or telling you off. She still needs you. She quite possibly needs you more than anyone else in her life right now. I know she’s probably closer with her mom. I know she probably shares secrets with mom and won’t tell you things, but it’s you she really needs.
1. She wants to know she’s valuable. You can tell her how much she’s worth just in the way you look at her. It’s pretty alarming when your little girl started to look like a woman. It’s kind of intimidating to go hug her and tell her she’s beautiful. As a society we’ve instilled a deep paranoia about adult males being creepy towards teenage girls. This has created an invisible cultural barrier that may keep you from making physical contact with your daughter. However, your valuing her means she doesn’t have to look for it elsewhere. Your affection towards her affirms her importance to you.
2. She needs to feel attractive. Your daughter has just begun to realize there are certain people who make the grade, and certain ones who don’t. Her deepest fear is that she won’t measure up. She’s afraid when others look at her they will scoff and not want her. A lot of this is in your control. When you look at your daughter and genuinely see the beauty she possesses, it builds her up. When you tell her what you see and why, you are giving her a gift for the rest of her life.
3. She needs to feel safe. When you put rules and limits in place, you’re creating a safety net for your daughter. She might protest and argue, but we protect the things we care about. You are showing her how deeply you treasure her when you tell her not to be alone with a boy, or not to put sexy pictures of herself online. You are guarding her innocence while teaching her to keep her own heart and body safe.
4. She needs to be cherished. Your teenage daughter wants to be the center of somebody’s world. Each girl is trying to carve out her space in the world where she is important. Some do this with academics, some with friends, some with boys, etc. When she is a very big part of your world, and she knows it, she will feel more content and cherished.
5. She needs to feel successful. Grades aren’t the only measure of success. They are an extremely important measure of success. However, if your daughter isn’t a natural student, try to find something else she is good at. Develop it alongside encouraging her to try harder in school. When girls think school is the only thing that matters to you, and they aren’t good at school, you can only imagine what a disappointment they think they are to you.
Dads, love your daughters well. Teenage girls are desperate for your approval, love, touch, affirmation, protection and encouragement. You can give your daughters a firm foundation they will stand on for the rest of their lives.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT