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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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