Why do fathers and stepfathers need blogs, book, or other resources about raising daughters? Because every last one of us grew up a boy; we are often in the dark about what it’s like to be a girl. This is why we sometimes have trouble understanding how they tick!
Despite this, you are a powerful influence in your daughter’s upbringing. The easiest and most fun way to get into a daughter’s life is through play.
Children grow up loving to play. As Fred Rogers famously said: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Having some of Tom Sawyer’s aversion to work, I like to think of play as a child’s career. When you and your girl play, you have a fabulous way to connect with her interests and be a potent, positive force in her life. But we fathers sometimes have difficulty playing with our children because we aren’t kids anymore—and because we’re so busy!
Still, building that essential, solid father-daughter connection requires us to have fun!
When you and your girl play, you are open and authentic. Play breaks down barriers between you–creating an ongoing opportunity to communicate and impart the treasure of your creativity, affection, willingness to take risks—the rich heritage of your own, personal masculinity.
On top of bringing you two closer together, dad-girl play makes great memories—another marvelous heritage for both of you to have.
All of this holds true for fathers who want to spend quality time with their older daughters and stepdaughters, too. It is just as possible (and important) to do fun activities with girls in their teens, and my book The Dads & Daughters® Togetherness Guide shows you how.
Many stepfathers and fathers I meet say they sometimes feel awkward or overwhelmed when interacting with their daughters. This is normal.
Of course, the person primarily responsible for leading the way through the discomfort is me, the parent, since I’m the grown-up.
Getting through the discomfort and resistance is well worth the effort. When we have open, authentic fun with our daughters and stepdaughters, we build trust.
After all, you have to trust someone in order to have genuine fun with them—rather than having “fun” at their expense. Parents know that trust is the mortar holding together solid family bonds. This trust is necessary in your father-daughter relationship, as well as in the relationship your daughter or stepdaughter has with herself.
Your daughter learns this trust in large part through her relationship with you. When you are attentive and supportive, she will recognize her own strength, value, and talent, giving her the boldness, passion, and savvy to grow into a marvelous woman of whom a Dad is justly proud.
There are many “serious” reasons to have fun with your daughter. But never forget that playing is one of parenting’s primary perks. It’s revitalizing and renewing. It takes us out of ourselves and makes us laugh. So allow yourself to let go when you can–both for your sake and your daughter’s. Dig in and let the fun begin!
Joe Kelly is the best-selling author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter and co-founder of New Moon Girls.