Your Father

Helping Daughters Embrace Their Relationships with Their Fathers

Most fathers and daughters do not know one another as well or spend nearly as much time together throughout their lifetimes as mothers and daughters. Since it is well established that fathers have as much or more impact on their daughters as mothers do, it seems that too many of us have adopted the attitude: Your Father, Why bother?

By teaching daughters specific ways to create more meaningful, more communicative relationships with their fathers, we give them a lifelong gift. We can begin by teaching daughters to treat their fathers as full-fledged, nurturing parents – and by teaching mothers to allow and encourage this kind of bonding between father and daughter without feeling jealous, competitive or left out.

Daughters’ Quiz: Am I Pushing My Father Away

Use 0 for “never,” 1 for “rarely,” 2 for “usually” and 3 for “almost always.”

___ I spend as much time alone with my father as I spend alone with my mother.

___ I talk directly to my dad instead of going through other people to communicate with him.

___ I go to my father for advice and for comfort about personal things.

___ I ask my father questions about his life the way I do with my mother.

___ I share important parts of my life as much with my father as with my mother.

___ I make as much effort to get to know my father as I do my mother.

___ I encourage my father to ask me questions about my life instead of acting as if he is prying or interfering.

___ I am as open and honest with my dad as I am with my mom.

___ I invite my father to do things alone with me so that we have time to talk privately.

___ I show my father how much I appreciate him as a parent.

___ I let my father know that he has as much impact on me as my mother does.

___ Total score (30 possible)

The higher her score, the easier a daughter makes it for her father to create a meaningful, relaxed relationship with her. By encouraging daughters to relate to their fathers in these ways, we help them embrace their relationships to the fullest. Given the many negative images of fathers that bombard us in movies, tv shows, children’s books and magazines, daughters also need help “removing their blindfolds” about men as parents. By exposing daughters to “eye openers” like these, we help them be less judgmental and more understanding toward their fathers.

  • Daughters raised mainly by their fathers are just as well adjusted and happy as daughters raised mainly by their mothers.
  • Most dads wish they could spend more time with their kids and less time at work.
  • Fathers are just as stressed as mothers are trying to balance work and family.
  • Two million fathers stay home to raise their children while their wives work.
  • Counting the time spent commuting, working, doing house and yard work, and being with the kids, the average father has 5 hours less free time each week than the average mother.
  • The vast majority of divorced fathers pay all of their child support payments.

By exposing the myths and misconceptions about men as parents, we open doors between fathers and daughters. As these adult daughters put it: “Now I see that my father isn’t just a bald guy with his head stuck in a book. I have so much to learn from him” “I am finally getting to know my father as more than an extension of my mother."

©2008 Dr. Linda Nielsen

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It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. Pope John XXIII

Dr. Nielsen has been teaching, counseling, conducting research and writing about adolescents and father-daughter relationships since 1970. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the recipient of the outstanding graduate's award in teacher education from the University of Tennessee in 1969, she taught and counseled high school students for several years. After earning a Master's Degree in Counseling and a Doctorate in Educational and Adolescent Psychology, she joined the faculty of Wake Forest University in 1974. Her grants and awards include the Outstanding Article Award in 1980 from the U.S. Center for Women Scholars and a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Association of University Women. For the past fifteen years she has focused primarily on father-daughter relationships with a special emphasis on divorced fathers and their daughters. Her work has been cited in the "Wall Street Journal" as well as in popular magzines such as "Cosmopolitan", and shared through television and radio interviews..

In 1991 she created her "Fathers & Daughters" course - the only college course in the country that focuses exclusively on father-daughter relationships. In addition to having written several dozen articles for journals such as the "Harvard Educational Review" and the "Journal of Divorce & Remarriage", Dr. Nielsen has written three books: How to Motivate Adolescents (Prentice Hall) and Adolescence: A Contemporary View (Harcourt Brace) which sold more than 60,000 copies and was adopted by hundreds of universities throughout the country and abroad between 1986-1996. Her third book, Embracing Your Father: Creating the Relationship You Want with Your Dad was published in April, 2004. www.wfu.edu/~nielsen or E-Mail

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