The daddy-daughter relationship is a huge and important one. Inevitably, it will change as your little girl grows up. We all know it will happen, yet so few dads are prepared. It often occurs far younger and much quicker than many dads know. So it’s time we open up the conversation with our girls and start teaching dads how to navigate this awkward time so it isn’t so uncomfortable. Dads need to learn how to support their daughters through puberty.   

It hit me hard when I learned that 3 out of 10 girls experience puberty at the age of 8. That means you only spend about 8-10 years parenting your little girl. The rest of the time, you’re parenting your daughter as a woman. So, it’s about time we focus on what it means to parent a young woman.  

you only spend about 8-10 years parenting your little girl. The rest of the time, you’re parenting your daughter as a woman

Unfortunately, it’s common for Dads to withdraw from their daughters as they go through puberty. What was once a strong, loving relationship somehow changes as our girls develop. Most Dads step back because this is all ‘girl stuff’; this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The more dads “get out of the way,” the more our girls feel ashamed about the changes they’re going through and are made to feel they’re no longer lovable to their dads. 

Dads feel uncomfortable, and step-back and daughters perceive this as rejection. From there, the relationship can crumble, and what once was a loving bond is gone. Dads, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen; it’s up to us to put our embarrassment aside for the sake of our girls. We need to break the cycle. 

Here is what I’ve learned from raising girls going through puberty (yes, we’re as strong as ever!):
Start young  

Young girls are naturally inquisitive, which should be used to your advantage. Start by talking about periods and the changes bodies undergo at a young age. Keep the conversation age-appropriate. They’re not yet embarrassed, ashamed, or even aware of the taboo of talking about bodies, so they’ll ask questions openly. You need to make the most of these teachable moments, not only for the facts but for letting your daughter know you’re always available to discuss the topic.

Inform yourself  

Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Read THIS, research products, and make sure you have answers to common questions. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Feel free to say, “I’m not sure. Let’s call Aunt Becky,” or “let’s check with mom.”   

Find companies with subscription boxes (dad of the year!) Read books and inform yourself.

Make yourself aware of what the extra estrogen in their body can cause, like heavy periods, painful periods, moodiness, bloating, water retention, and other symptoms that can make your daughter feel the pits. Being aware of this allows you to be a more understanding father and be able to sympathize and help where needed. 

Stay positive and loving

If this time feels confusing to you, imagine how it must feel to her. It’s essential that during the time while her body is changing, she isn’t also feeling like her dad is withdrawing or pulling away. She’s already feeling uncomfortable in her skin and making comparisons with her friends. She needs your love to be unconditional.

Know how to help

If she’s feeling down, ask if she wants a heating pad for cramps, make her a healthy smoothie, or offer a bar of chocolate. Validate her feelings, help ease symptoms, and show you will make her feel connected to you and make her feel loved. This also teaches her to find a partner who respects and cares for her.

Compliment her 

Compliment her on the things she does well. High-five her, uplift her, hug her and respect her. Remind her how loved she is. Girls can feel so awkward and uncomfortable in their bodies. They may worry that the changes mean you won’t love them as they did when they were little girls. Make sure to show them that this isn’t the case. The relationship will be different but can remain just as strong. 

A good time for dad jokes

The topic of puberty can be awkward for kids and teens, so now may be the perfect time to inject some of your terrible dad jokes. Sure, your kid will roll her eyes. But you’re letting her know the relationship remains strong; it will ease the tension and let her know it’s okay to laugh and joke about big topics, making her more likely to approach you when she may need you again. 

When girls feel loved and respected by important men in their life, she has higher self-esteem, holds higher standards and self-respect, and embraces her womanliness with open arms, not shame. So never underestimate the role you play as her dad. This is not a time to step aside. It’s a time to step up and embrace the awkwardness and embarrassment head-on. It will be challenging but being by her side and supportive as she stumbles through and showing her how much you adore her support her, and respect the woman she is becoming. You will benefit immeasurably from the changes as you’ll now be parenting your daughter as a woman, which is incredible to be a part of.

Another great read for dads in the Mabelhood- Please don’t stop hugging your sons

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