By Jenny Hart
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. Even those who aren’t first-time parents can speak to the challenges of raising children. Living as a single dad comes with its own set of joys and challenges as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kids with involved, present fathers are more likely to do well in school and have fewer behavioral issues. However, while you are your daughter’s primary support system and leader, there are no doubt a few extra pressures as you help her navigate puberty, social life and growing, complex emotions.
If you’re a single dad with a daughter, take a look at a few ways to connect that will build her trust in you and enhance your relationship:
As a single dad, you’re likely pretty protective of your little girl. You’ll be tempted to intervene at the slightest upset and make things better for your daughter. When she’s little, it’s easy to make everything better with a kiss and a bandage, but as she gets older, her circumstances will become more complex.
As she enters her pre-teen years, her experiences and emotional awareness are going to be a bit more complicated than they’ve been in the past. Try to remember that sometimes, she’ll just need someone to sit with her while she works through her feelings. Let her know that she isn’t alone and you’ll be doing more for her than you realize.
This will also help your daughter understand that her emotions are normal, that she can navigate any circumstance and that she won’t be doing it without your support. She may be dealing with a bully at school, heartbreak or changes with her body. If you can offer her emotional support as well as solutions, she’ll be able to talk to you about future challenges or victories.
Always keep learning.
When it comes to raising children as a single parent, there is no better strategy than to educate yourself. There are countless books, blogs, videos, groups, podcasts and other resources available to help you connect with your daughter.
Whether you’re in search of parenting advice, seeking a community to confide in or researching some of your daughter’s personal interests, your involvement and investment will pay off in your relationship.
As much as possible, be fully present at your daughter’s dance recitals, soccer games, piano performances and parent-teacher conferences, without distractions or excuses. If she can see you’re dedicating your full attention to her activities, she’ll feel more connected to you and have more to share with you in conversation.
This also keeps you aware of her choices, social circles, beliefs and influences. This isn’t to say you have to intervene or have strict rules, but knowledge is power. You don’t have to snoop or hover too closely, but by keeping the conversation open and honest, she’ll know that you’re not going to check out and that you’re looking out for her best interest, even when things get a little stressful.
Ask for help.
As a single dad, you may encounter topics that would be best explored with another female role model in your daughter’s life. It’s okay, and often wise, to ask for help from a trusted female figure or a professional. Your daughter may feel more comfortable talking to a woman about girl-specific topics like menstruation, birth control, puberty or the best junior tampons.
Know that connecting her with someone else, like a mentor or a doctor, does not mean that you’ve given up, or that you should stay out of the loop. As a man, you can be an important part of breaking the stigma surrounding these topics.
Being a single dad to a daughter who is growing and becoming a young woman can be intimidating, but the best course of action is to always stay involved. Make sure your daughter knows that you are her number one fan and biggest teammate.