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9 Smart Ways Single & Divorced Dads Can Connect with Teen Daughters

9 Smart Ways Single & Divorced Dads Can Connect with Teen Daughters

Even top therapists admit that their own daughters roll their eyes, sigh, and shudder at them during the teenage years. Rude backtalk also infuriates even the most patient and teen-savvy parent. Add in a divorce, new mates for mom and/or dad, location moves, and parenting teen daughters can seem impossible.

It’s at this time that fathers must step up and re-double efforts to connect in positive ways. If you’re struggling with your temper at this time or feeling tempted to pull away because you can’t seem to connect with your daughter, do not hesitate to reach out to a parenting coach or therapist. It’s the brave fathers who seek insights from experts. These professionals help dads avoid falling into a manipulative teen’s drama or pulling away due to confusion and feelings of uselessness.

The following tactics work well to keep you connected to your teen daughter. Even when some activities or attempts to connect seem to fail, your consistency and determination make a huge difference. Researchers agree that teenage girls who enjoy continued connection with their fathers throughout adolescence end up in healthier relationships, enjoy increased self-esteem, and report fewer mental health issues.

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When your daughter seems hostile or closed off, soothe yourself with the warm memories from when your little girl thought that you knew everything and could fix everything in the whole wide world.

Attitude Tweaks

All teenagers alternate between freezing out and lashing out at parents… unless they need or want something, at which point they revert to the sweet things they did when they were 11. This Jekyll & Hyde behavior helps them go through the necessary emotional work of becoming an individual, or separating to some extent from the family. Psychologists tell us that teens can resemble toddlers, in the sense that they break away from a parent’s reach to explore a new environment. Once the toddler has realized they’ve gone a bit too far, they startle and run back to the safety of familiar legs. Arrange your schedule and your time so your daughter knows you’re always there even when she’s out exploring. Keep tabs on where she is at all times and, just as important, let her know where YOU are.

As you stay consistently in each other’s orbit, this is not the time to be your daughter’s best friend. She needs limits now as much as any time in her life. It’s far easier to be the cool dad/friend who doesn’t enforce limits, but expending this consistent energy now and actually being the bad guy puts your daughter on a far better track.

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Typical mistakes dads can make include:

  • Siding with their daughter against their mother (the primary target for female adolescent angst). No matter what state she is in, insist that your daughter treat her mother with respect. When you treat your ex with respect, your daughter will learn men must treat her civilly as well.
  • Becoming the cool-friend-dad. No matter what she says, she needs your protection and wisdom, far more than approval from her friends. Who cares what they think? They’re immature and clueless for the most part. While she may holler about curfews and other limitations, just put on your ear-muffs and hold the line. You are one of two primary people she’ll have to always provide the supervision and guidance about how to operate in the world and how to treat people. She’ll have lots of friends, but only one father.

Drive Her Places, Even If She Has a License

So, she has her license and can get to her athletic events and other activities by herself, you should still tell her you want to go. In-the-car-time is some of the best times fathers and daughters can talk and connect. Ask her to run errands with you or run her errands with her.

Be Present

Try to spend at least one hour each day fully present with your daughter. This could be at dinner or even television time afterward. Do chores together. Spend time without any laptops, or cell phones for either of you. If there’s a television show on, discuss it. Mindfulness experts encourage us to be fully present by consciously locking out thoughts of the past and future. For this hour, just concentrate on your daughter, the meal, the dishes, or the road ahead. Learning how to be present in the moment can take some getting used to, so practice when you’re not with your daughter. Recent studies from Harvard and others reveal that mindfulness has all kinds of mental and physical health benefits.

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Designate a Doctor or Other Medical Service You Will Handle

While your ex handles the orthodontist, you may handle the dentist. Let grandma get her to her chiropractor appointments, but you go to the yearly physical. Divide these tasks and don’t let another family member or even the mother take all of them.

Keep the Reassuring Hugs and Pats Coming

Even if your daughter stiffens up now when you go to hug her, hug her anyway, especially when she’s sick. Run your hand over her head, pat her back and tell her it’s good to see her or congratulate her for the B on that math test. Tell her you love her before you hang up the phone. If these gestures feel uncomfortable, do them anyway and consider exploring why they make you uncomfortable with a therapist. The American Psychological Association reports that consistent affection has proven to protect children from all kinds of physical and mental illnesses AND especially from peers who don’t have their best interests at heart.

Connect Through Notes and Texts

Find the ways you can connect better with your daughter. Send sentiments regularly, especially when she’s had a test, a special dance, game, or meet. You can simply put encouraging notes in her backpack. Even if you’ve had a recent disagreement, she still has that nerve-wracking oral presentation in chemistry, or her first turn as forward in the field hockey game.

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Ask Her Opinion on Your Work, Friends, or Decorating Matters

Demonstrate that you respect her burgeoning maturity by letting her weigh in on adult matters. You don’t have to take the advice, but asking for it indicates you recognize she’s maturing.

Know that it’s Never Too Late

Even if you have made some mistakes with your daughter and/or her mother, know that it is NEVER too late to tell her you want to work on your connection with her. Lots of great things have come from fathers admitting their mistakes and telling their daughters they are working on their attitudes, behaviors, and efforts. Too many daughters in their twenties and thirties are still waiting for better communication and a warmer bond with their fathers. Start now by using the tried and true tactics parenting experts suggest. We’ve seen it over and over again: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE!

Be On the Lookout for Threats to Your Connection

Hold the line and insist on time with your daughter, even if your daughter resists. When fathers aren’t sure how to spend time with daughters, they may reduce their time with them. Do not fall into this common pattern. Instead, keep seeking out things the two of you can enjoy together. Your local newspaper’s events sections will have plenty of activities. Not all activities have to be full-on fun, however. As mentioned above, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, and errand running together serve as great activities to share. If she’s doing homework at the table, you can sit with her quietly while you work, surf the Internet, or do your bills.

Do you have a teenager daughter? What are some of your favorite activities to do together?

Featured photo credit: portrait of one sad daughter hugging his father/shutterstock via thumb7.shutterstock.com

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Peter Mueller

Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

“Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days. A purpose.” – from the popular show, “Westworld”

It’s different for us all. My personal quest for purpose began with five stages of grief and one startling realization that everything’s endlessly fragile. Adversity, as it happens by rule, found me terribly unprepared, so I decided to take my time. Today, I can honestly say that I’ve grown.

Ugliness and beauty, good and evil, pain and laughter – everything in the universe consists of two forces that are opposing but complementary. In the face of difficulty, that is the only mantra you need.

Here’s how I learned it and why you should too, with five simple rules.

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1. Embrace the Complexity

Quite insidiously, adversities come in all shapes and sizes. Paralyzing physical disabilities, mind-wracking mental problems, ruthless emotional havocs, all leading to the same painful acknowledgement: all the beauty in the world cannot possibly make up for the ugliness that surrounds us. Shattered to pieces, helpless and bare naked, we sit in our therapy chairs, apologizing for being so negative.

Eventually, what it all comes down to is the nature of negative emotion. Our positives overshadow our negatives, thus wrongly teaching us that the road to well-being is paved with nothing but positive feelings and thoughts. How utterly wrong!

“If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative”, Woody Allen said.

It’s a classic “learn from your mistakes” rule, but in this case, it implies growing from negative experiences. Make peace with your negativities and embrace beauty and ugliness alike! Accepting this marvellously complex world just as it is will allow you to find purpose in adversity and meaning in misery.

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2. Find Balance, Regain Control

Still, accepting adversity is only the first step toward eventual victory. One can endure only so much trauma in life; if we’re not prepared to deal with difficulties in a productive way, even the minor setbacks can get us off track. Our strengths come from learning, and the best way to learn is through a series of trials and errors. Just like phases of grief or stages of drug addiction, adversities suggest a disabling loss of control, so find your way to regain it.

Some call it the coping mechanism; for others, it’s a spiritual will. However you choose to name yours, know that not all supporting systems are equally beneficial, though each is effective in its own way. Escapism was mine, but it only helped me retain the illusion of beauty. It wasn’t until I opened up toward the ugliness and accepted the naked truth that I was finally free. Whether you choose to dwell in art, religion and spiritualism, thus feeding your resilience from within or to reach out to others for help, choose wisely.

Whatever the means, the second rule is a golden one: find your inner balance and stick to it. Eventually, it will lead you out of the vicious circle.

3. Fight with Patience

My bargaining turned in depression with a single touch. Fearless and free, my dance instructor timidly put her hands on my shoulders and I realized, for the first time, just how tense, stiff and cloistered I was. And just like that, I started letting go. Adversities have their sneaky ways, but in my experience, becoming aware is what hurts the worst. It took me a year to recover from this little moment of self-discovery, and I know remember it as the edge of the rabbit hole.

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Some sufferings are impossible to console; I know that now. The only way to get through is to, well, get through. Depression and despair are only the beginning of the excruciatingly unnerving process that ravages the mind and shrivels the soul, and once they strike, there is no easy way back. So, fight them with patience. When your head starts spinning and your feet lose ground, go to your happy place. Over there, you’ll be reminded that nothing is forever, not even our little existential psychosis.

Take a deep breath and say “om”. When things cannot be combated, they have to be endured, so practice patience and learn to let go. Finally, keep repeating to yourself that this too shall pass.

4. Keep Swimming

Nothing is impossible, in the end. Your negative thoughts will gently pour into your positive ones, just as two streams come together to become a river. In the event of the inevitable disaster, one can only be as calm as still water. Suffering teaches patience, and the latter gives rise to flexibility. Ultimately, what is life than a series of unfortunate events and a handful of bright moments in between? If adversities are impossible to avoid, than learn to glide through as smoothly and patiently as water does with rocks.

Even if spirituality isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you have to admit that this is one solid metaphor. Staying adaptable in the face of change will soothe your panic attacks and keep you sane and sober-blooded. Even if you fail, you’ll know exactly how to breathe and face what’s in front of you once it eventually strikes again. Stay calm and visualize a better tomorrow; if anything else, it will give you strength to dive deep and weather the storm. And, in case there’s somebody’s hand to reach out to, grab it firmly and don’t let go.

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Being flexible against adversities takes a lot of learning, just as staying brave demands a lot of courage. It’s a long, arduous step-by-step routine, and you can reach the end only by swimming on. Persist, even when you fall.

5. Never Stop Searching for Inspiration

And, if it’s a guidance you need, where else to seek it than in experiences of others? Find it in art, in people around you, in chance encounters. The pure beauty of perseverance can be discovered where you expect it the least, so never stop searching for inspiration. If self-help literature soothes your pains and clears your mind, don’t let cynics discourage you. Your path toward reconciliation is nobody’s but yours to choose.

Ever heard of Nick Vujicic? Or Nando Parado? Inspiring people sound their yawps over the roofs of the world, sometimes voiceless, sometimes limbless, sometimes both. Born without arms, Jessica Cox became the most unusual certified pilot in the world, and you can rarely see her without a smile on her face. If you’ve already ripped all of your bucket lists and said goodbye to your dreams and plans, meet Sean Swarner, who’s officially became the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest. The stories just go on.

Make your own guidebook! Pen down your positive thoughts, cover your walls with quotes and devise your personal mantras. Whenever things get hard, they’ll be there to remind you of what you need to do. It’s the simplest of all life hacks, and one of the most effective ones.

Find beauty in the world, but never stay blind for its ugliness. However daunting, adversities and emotional pain challenge our inner strength, thus making us resilient and allowing us to grow. As soon as you recognize them as the wind in your sails instead of the devastating storm, the purpose will become simple and clear.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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