Connecting with your daughter during college and beyond

Once your daughter moves out of the house and steps into her adult life, it can be an exciting time to connect with her in new ways. Now is the season in her life where she will be immersed in academics, pursuing a career, and/or deciding on a life partner and if she will have children. She will also be learning how to balance her life with all the new demands of adulthood. A woman still needs her father, no matter what her age. Daughters whose fathers are supportive and encouraging tend to have higher rates of graduation from college and higher paying, more demanding jobs than fathers who are not involved. A daughter may want to turn to her father for mentoring and coaching about how to handle career choices and business situations. A father also plays a big role in his daughter’s romantic life, maybe more so than mothers. Fathers who have close relationships with their daughters, tend to have daughters who have lower rates of teen pregnancy and wait longer to get married and have children. Their daughters are typically more focused on school, athletics, and careers. Daughters who describe their relationship with their dads as communicative, supportive, and close tend to have marriages that are satisfying, secure, and longer lasting. When it comes to managing the stressors that come with adult life, research shows that daughters who have a close relationship with their fathers actually have lower levels of stress hormones, lower rates of clinical depression, and are less likely to develop an eating disorder. Here are some tips on how to stay connected to your daughter as an adult:

1. Reach out and connect with her. Even though she may not be living in your home anymore, personal contact to stay involved in her daily life is important. Make sure you call her, text her, connect via social media. Many dads let daily communication happen between mother and daughter, which just creates distance between you. Be the one to reach out. Don’t just know what is happening in her life, have her tell you herself.

2. Revisit old favorites. When you do see her, make time for the activities you used to love to do together. Play the sports you used to play, go to eat at your favorite places, reminisce about old projects. Show her that she will always have that special place in your heart no matter what her age.

3. Visit her or travel with her. There is no time like time spent together. Make plans to visit her when you can. Plan special trips with her. Make new memories. She will feel so important and valuable when you make time in your life for her.

4. Open up. She’ll love to hear how you handled all the difficulties of adult life. Make sure if she comes to you with her struggles that you share some of your similar struggles. Nothing feels better to a daughter than to hear that not only are you not disappointed in her, but you get what she is feeling because you too have been there.

5. Keep your listening ears open. Only offer advice if she asks for it. Listen a lot, and help guide her to make her own decisions without telling her what to do. Give lots of praise.

Without a doubt, staying connected with your daughter is important from the day she is born, and throughout her entire life.

[1] Mark Clemens, Parade, February 2, 1997; E.M. Hetherington and B. Martin, “Family Interaction,” Psychopathological Disorders of Childhood (New York; John Wile & Sons, 1979): 247-302.

[1] 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, sponsored by MetLife Foundation

[1] Flouri, E., Buchanan, A., & Bream, V. (2002). Adolescents’ perceptions of their fathers’ involvement: Significance to school attitudes. Psychology in the Schools, 39(5), 575-582.