Connecting with your daughter during the teenage years

Parenting a teenage daughter is often a tough, but rewarding job. Most parents fear the new challenges their daughter will face during these years; the decision to drink or not drink, the choice over whether or not to have sex; selecting the right friendships and the beginning of romantic relationships. This is also the time that your teen daughter will face new challenges to maintaining her self-esteem. During the teen years, girls also begin solidifying who they are as a person and who they want to be. This is a time when they need a father’s involvement.

The teen years, however, often tend to be a time where dads may want to step back from the parenting role for various reasons. “I’ve never been a teen girl, so I don’t know what to say.” “Her mother has a better sense of the right thing to do.” “It’s awkward for both of us to mention anything about sex, so I rather not talk about this.” There are many reasons dad may fade to the background, but it’s imperative that they do not. Here’s why:

Daughters listen to their parents about the bigger issues in life, more so than their peers. When asked who had an influence on their decision to have sex, 76 percent of teen girls stated their fathers. When it comes to choices about drugs and alcohol, parents that talk to their teen about values and beliefs about substance use, are less likely to have a child use substances Studies have also shown that the more involved a father is, the more likely they will be successful academically

So, how can you as a father be involved in your daughter’s life? Here are some tips.

1. Make a daily effort to have a conversation. If they don’t want to talk, try another time. Consistently work to make an effort to talk to your teen daughter. Fathers can often find car rides as a great time to start conversations. Make sure that the focus is on them. Try to listen more than talk. Really hear what she has to say. You will end up learning more about your teen this way.

2. Be her cheerleader. The teen years is often when girls can begin to have dips in their self-esteem and confidence. Try to help her fight back, but helping her see the positives and values she holds. Help her find her passions in life and encourage theses. When she has something to share, put down the phone, pause the TV, do whatever is needed to make sure she knows her voice matters.

3. Talk about values and beliefs. But first, hear what hers are. What does she think about sex and relationships? This is often a difficult topic for parents, but an important conversation to have. Using examples from the media or movies, can be a great way to start the conversation.

Be a good role model. Actions speak louder than words. Make sure you are being the person you want your teen daughter to become. What do your actions say about the value of being a girl or woman in today’s culture? Are you living a life that is balanced? Do you take time for the important things in 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.