“She told me her father initiated a phone call to her for the first time in a very long time. I noticed she had flowers on her desk and I asked who sent her flowers. With a huge smile, she told me her dad sent them to her for her birthday. Beth’s response to her father’s attention made me realize that even grown women hunger for love, attention and affirmation from their father.”
Recent studies from the University of Canterbury and Vanderbilt University show that fathers provide unique benefits to their daughters through their active and positive presence from the time of birth through adulthood.
“Many men operate off of the premise that if they weren’t involved in their daughter’s life as she was growing up that it is too late to make a difference,” says Dr. Canfield. “Thinking that the dye is cast or the deal is done because our children are grown is something we must re-examine because it simply is not true. In a parallel vein, research shows the devastating impact of divorce affects adult children deeply. Contrastingly, the continued investment in your child’s life even when they are parents of your grandchildren will reap tremendous benefits for you and them.”
Time studies show that men tend to spend more time with their sons growing up than they do with their daughters. The trend is for fathers to back away from their daughters during the pre-adolescent and adolescent time period, but the need for attention and affection during that time period is even more important.
“When a father abandons a relationship with his daughter she can become frozen in time relationally with the opposite sex,” says Dr. Canfield. “A 50-year-old woman may look like an adult on the outside, but on the inside she is still working on issues that should have been attended to by a healthy, engaged father.”
According to the research, girls who don’t have a healthy relationship with their father will look for other ways to contribute to their development when it comes to relating to men.
“When you are frozen relationally, it is difficult to know your place and how to develop a healthy relationship because you are working from a point of need instead of working out of a position of co-equal,” says Canfield. “There is a void in her life and the search to fill that void prompts her to take risks in relationships which usually result in some really poor choices.”
Initiate some form of communication with your daughter. Seek to affirm her for the positive contributions she has made to your life or in the lives of others.
Consider whether you need to ask for forgiveness. The three toughest things for any father to tell his children are: “I was wrong,” “I am sorry,” and “Will you forgive me?” Use these to deepen your relationship with your daughter.
Ask your daughter to name three ways you can support her in the coming year.
Ask your child’s mother to describe the ways her father influenced her most significantly.
Affirm your daughter’s femininity by being sensitive to when she is going through emotional highs and lows.
Cultivate an atmosphere of “no-strings-attached” love in your home. Be ready to listen to and support your children no matter what challenge they may face.
By // Julie Baumgardner