Being a single parent is difficult at the best of times, but perhaps some of the biggest challenges are faced by single fathers raising daughters. It can be difficult, but there are ways to ‘survive’ and develop a good relationship with your daughter. An outline of some of the things you could do is provided below.
Don’t Try to Raise Her Alone
There is one thing that you should remember as a single parent in general and as single father raising a daughter in particular: do not try to raise her alone. You need to get some support either from other single dads or from family and friends. Importantly, you need to ensure that there is a woman in your daughter’s life who can teach her those things that you do not know how to do. You have a few options in this regard:
- Keep in contact with her mother and make sure they get some quality time together.
- If this is not possible, find another mentor. For example, allow your daughter to develop a relationship with an aunt or an older cousin. If there is someone from your church or your neighborhood that she seems particularly attached to, allow her to attach herself to this ‘surrogate mother’ figure. But let her choose the woman she wants to confide in.
Girls are, generally speaking, not quite as good at solving problems on their own at certain ages as boys are. This means that you will, for a long while, need to accept that what may seem obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to her. Sit down with her and work through the problems in her life together. Do not simply provide her with the solution because in this instance the point is to provide her with a skill that she will be able to carry with her into her future. It is good if she sees you as someone she can rely on in times of difficulty, but do not fall into the trap of allowing her to lean on you for everything. Instil the ability to be independent in problem solving early on so that she will be able to use it effectively as an adult.
Avoid Being Over-Protective While Still Protecting Her When Required
This is a very difficult balance to achieve for a single dad raising a daughter. You obviously need to protect her to a certain degree. She is your daughter and you are her father. But if you are overprotective you will:
- Stifle the relationship
- Prevent her from having experiences necessary for development
In this regard you should consider getting help from someone who has already been through the process of raising daughters and who has done a fairly good job of it. In addition, you should speak to your daughter about it face-to-face. Discuss the issue of being “over-protective” and find out what she considers to be over-protective. You will have differing opinions on the matter, but a compromise could be reached through discussion. You will need to let your daughter go at some point. By allowing her a certain amount of freedom growing up you will be preparing yourself for this separation.
It is very important that you are adequately involved in your daughter’s life (while, again, avoiding the trap of becoming over-involved). This means that you need to take an active interest in what is going on in her life without being too judgmental. Have an idea of what is going on with her at school, and know who her friends are. Know what her interests are. At certain ages children don’t want to speak to their parents about anything. Even in this situation, keep asking her about her life – she will appreciate it later. Attend her sports activities and school plays, take her to ballet lessons, and look for new hobbies and activities for her to do. Schedule father-daughter outings on a regular basis. Be sure to speak with her before hand and ensure that you are choosing activities that she will in fact enjoy.
Communication and Listening
A few of the points that we have touched on already mention the importance of communicating with your daughter about what is going on in her life and in your relationship with her. This is extremely important. Open communication needs to exist so that she will come to you when there is a serious problem that she is facing. Don’t force communication when she doesn’t want to talk, but make sure that there is a constant understanding between the two of you that she can come to you with any problem when necessary. It is important that, when she comes to you with a problem, you listen to her carefully and try to see things from her perspective. This communication pattern needs to happen both ways, but it is your responsibility as the father to set an example for her to follow in all of your interactions.
The Issue of Female Development
Girls develop differently to boys. It will help to have a good understanding of female development when raising a daughter on your own so that you will be prepared for changes when they happen. You have a few options on this regard:
- Keep in touch with her mother or another adult female who will be able to explain developmental changes to her and who will be able to give you advice along the way.
- Read books and look online for information on the topic. When it comes time to provide your daughter with information on the changes in her own body, make sure that you have read enough to understand them first. Then you will need to discuss them with her. Reading through a book together may be a good idea. A little embarrassing but at least you will come away knowing that she has a good idea of what is going on. Or you can let her read it by herself and then ask questions either of you or someone she trusts. Asking classmates could result in some strange ideas, so make sure that she understands that the other girls in her class may not be the most reliable source of information.
Don’t be afraid to discipline your daughter. Discipline to a certain degree is necessary. In order to discipline you will need to:
- Set clear limits
- Set clear expectations
- Set clear consequences
These have to be within reason. You will also need to be prepared to adjust your limits and expectations as she ages. These are things that the two of you will have to discuss and set together. Involve her in the writing up of rules and discuss consequences with her so she knows what will happen if she breaks those rules.
Understanding Her Nutritional Needs
Believe it or not girls have different nutritional needs than boys as they grow. Often not even mothers are aware of this, so you will be ahead of the game if you know how to ensure that she is getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals. The two main things she needs are:
- Calcium, and
These are not particularly exciting foods so you will need to think up interesting ways of preparing the food so that she will eat it. You will have enough problems in your life without meal times being a fight as well. You may want to take a cooking class or two to improve your cooking skills. Recipes are easy enough to find online and anyone that can follow step-by-step instructions can cook a good meal. Your daughter will appreciate the effort you put into it even if she doesn’t express it at the time.
Single Fathers Raising Daughters MUST Offer Support When Necessary
You need to support your daughter through everything. This is one of the more important tips that we have for you today. You may not agree with all of her decisions. Express your reasons for not agreeing, but if she makes a decision you do not agree with you will have to support her through it anyway. This sort of relationship should form the cornerstone of your relationship with her. If you support her, she will support you. Acceptance and an ability to stick together through anything will result in a very mature relationship that will do you both good as your daughter becomes a woman.
It will not be easy to do most of the following and it will require work on your part, as well as on the part of your daughter. Perhaps the most important aspect is communication. Make sure that both you and she are always at least partially aware of how you feel about the relationship. Make sure that she understands the difficulties you face and that you are prepared to listen to her problems and concerns. Concentrate and keep the above in mind and just, in general, do your best. And remember to get support when necessary.