Connecting with Your Daughter during her Elementary School Years

Although raising a girl is trying at times, it can also bring life’s deepest joy. The elementary school years are particularly fun. Ages 5-12 are the years that girls are learning to read, building confidence in soccer or basketball, and making friends. They look to their parents for approval, and they still love being you. Although this stage of life can be full of learning, connection, and enjoyment, it’s not without its trials. More now than ever, girls are faced with the challenges of a fast-paced society that exposes them to harmful information. Our ease of access to technology is great for their curious minds, but the pitfalls are unmistakable. Girls are developing eating disorders at younger ages. Emotional issues like anxiety and depression are on the rise for girls as well. Social and academic stresses are present even at this young age. With the earlier onset of puberty, your daughter might also need to navigate physical changes. While girls are deciding whether they will move through life as confident, industrious women or women with lower self-esteem who feel inferior to their peers, a father’s role is crucial. Study after study indicates that daughters are better off emotionally, academically, and relationally when they have a father who is involved in their lives. When a girl believes that her dad thinks she’s great and she feels close to him emotionally, she can conquer the world. So, what can you do to help your girl feel competent in the world outside her family and connected to you? Here’s 5 ways to help your elementary school aged daughter right now.

1. Balanced Praise: Let her know when she’s done well. Use specific and immediate feedback when possible: “Amelia, I loved how you helped your little brother up the stairs. You’re so kind.” Reinforcement strongly shapes behavior. Watch for over-praising. We want daughters to be accurately confident.

2. Play: Play is one of the most important ways that girls develop intelligence, creativity, and competence. Get down on the floor and play: Play hide and seek, paint a picture, wrestle! Figure out what she’s interested in, and follow her lead. For example, if she loves being outside, go on a nature hike, or if she loves Minecraft, sit down with her and learn all about it.

3. Talk to her: Ok, this seems obvious, but one of the great things about this age is that you can really have conversations with your daughter. Take the position of asking questions. Ask open-ended questions, and really listen to her responses. Let her know you understand her, and if you don’t, ask for clarification.

4. Offer comfort when she’s upset: When we go through emotional times with other people, it’s bonding. Physical affection bonds us to people as well. So, when your daughter gets her feelings hurt, rub her back, listen to her, and tell her you love her.

5. Create routines and memories: One of your main jobs is to teach your daughter about the world around her. If you’re interested in canoeing, take her with you. Teach her about the river, the fish, and how to paddle. Talk about what you did afterwards. Ask your daughter to tell you her favorite parts. This will help solidify the memory. Routine is important as well. This could be something like your monthly canoeing trip, but it could also be as simple as the fun, 6-step high five that you give her each night at bedtime.

Remember that dads rock! You don’t have to do everything perfectly. Your daughter loves you as you are. She just needs to know that she’s important to you and that you believe in her.