Helping Daughters Embrace Their Relationships with
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
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
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
___ 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,
childrens 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
- 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 isnt 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
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It is easier for a father to have children than
for children to have a real father. Pope John
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
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
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