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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 August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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