Navigating the ‘tween years can be a difficult time for all parents – especially fathers.
How does a dad nurture his relationship with his daughter when all he wants to do is keep her safe at home until she is 18?
When I wrote Bonding Over Beauty, I set out to write a guide for moms to better bond with their daughter. But, dads like Dr. Manny are an important part of raising their daughters.
So, I put together some guidelines to help fathers create a healthy bond with their daughter that will last a lifetime.
Keep the comments to yourself.
The last thing an already self-conscience ‘tween wants to hear is "my little girl is becoming a woman" or " you are developing big breasts like your mom." It is mortifying and just makes dad seem like he is from another planet.
No more walking around in your underwear.
Guys, you have to put on some pants. It is completely inappropriate to walk around in your underwear, or worse, naked in front of your pubescent daughter.
Avoid direct criticism.
Some men have a tendency to comment on their daughter’s appearance. Saying “you have a pimple” or “you look fat in that dress” can be devastating to a young girl and hurt her fragile self-esteem. Keep comments positive and suggestions pro-active. Instead of commenting on her weight, ask her to go for a bike ride with you. If she has a pimple, suggest she wash her face with a new cleanser you picked for her at the store.
If your daughter asks you a question that makes you uncomfortable, do not say, "Go ask mom." When you get that uncomfortable question, pat yourself on the back for being a great parent. Clearly, you have made her feel so secure in your relationship that she is at ease asking you difficult questions. Better she asks you than her 13-year-old friend who may give her bad information. Take a deep breath, and ask her why it is on her mind. This will give you a minute to think of how to answer it. Then answer her honestly and without judgment.
Learn about your daughter's changing body.
While it is probably best to have a female or a pediatrician teach your daughter how to handle her cycle, dads should be comfortable talking about the changes she will experience. It is a part of life and should be treated as such.
Avoid hard and fast rules that are arbitrary.
Telling your daughter she can’t shave her legs, tweeze her eyebrows or wear makeup until you she is 16 doesn’t make for a great relationship. It just makes you seem clueless. If your 12 year old has a unibrow, her self-esteem could be compromised. If she fixes it, she can concentrate on other things like school instead of fixating on this problem. As for makeup, young girls wear makeup because it’s sparkly and fun. It does not have to be red lipstick and black eye liner. Learn what’s in style, and find ways to compromise such as lip-gloss instead of lipstick or clear mascara instead of black mascara.