The void left by an absent father, the damage caused by a toxic dad, and the varying shades of poor father-daughter relationships often lead to teenage girls and women who are broken on the inside.
This is sad and avoidable. What’s really tragic is the collateral damage that can last for generations.
Dads – we have to sort this out. Until now, you may not have been aware of the enormous impact you have on your young daughter’s life. Depending on your relationship, there can be life-changing positive or negative effects on the lady she grows up to be.
Good Fathers = Happy Girls + Strong Women
Strong father-daughter bonds help to create confident, emotionally stable women who find it easier to trust people, and stand a better chance of having successful relationships and a happier life.
In contrast, girls who grow up without love from a proper father figure tend to be missing a vital part of their childhood, which often leads to a distrust for men, lower self confidence and a range of other problems including mental health issues.
Daughters just want be loved by the first man in their life. Unfortunately, some men can’t even say it, while others confess their love but don’t put meaningful actions behind the words. And the rest genuinely want to win their daughters over but don’t know how to do it.
The good news is that if you’re reading this, it’s not too late to make things better, and to start repairing the damage that may have been done.
7 Ways to Fix a Broken Dad-Daughter Relationship
Regardless of how long you’ve been estranged or who caused the communication breakdown, there’s definitely a way to heal.
You just need to really want to solve the unhealthy situation.
Here’s a step by step guide on how you can become a better dad by improving your father-daughter relationship:
(Note: this is a general guide that assumes your daughter is about 6-9 years old already and your relationship has been average at best. If you’re a new dad, your daughter is still a toddler or you have a reasonable bond with her already, then you may want to tweak the tips to suit your circumstances.)
- Change your Mindset – For an improved relationship that lasts, you need to have a new approach that’s driven by a clearer understanding of what your daughter needs, what you can offer and how to find a healthy middle ground. There’s no point having unrealistic expectations where you give in an unsustainable way, and then go back to old ways. That may just do more damage. Get a fresh outlook on the whole situation. Reflect on what you ultimately want and value in life. More often than not, you’ll come to the conclusion that your daughter is one of the most important things in your life. And when you realize that you’ve already missed a few precious years of her youth together, and that the remaining years are a once in a lifetime opportunity that will fly by, it suddenly becomes much easier to put her as your top priority.
- Own Up to the Mistakes of the Past – Don’t just dive in and expect her to accept a sudden turnaround. Have a honest chat with her to acknowledge what happened in the preceding years. Man up to your mistakes openly. Apologize for all the times you’ve let her down. Try to remember specific incidents and let her know you’re aware of the times when you’ve broken promises, missed school plays, forgotten birthday requests and so on. This will mean a lot to her. She’s been convinced that you just don’t care, so surprise her. In short, take responsibility for not having done more in the past.
- Spend Quality Time Together – It’s actually relatively simple to please a child. Just make time for her and then really be present when you’re together. Don’t try to multi-task or let your mind wander off when you think she’s preoccupied with something. Quality time means getting involved with whatever you’re supposed to be doing together, even if it means imaginary play with her Barbie dolls. Quality time means listening to her intently. Remember her Barbie’s best friend’s boyfriend’s name. This kind of thing tends to just fly over our heads, but when she’s passionately telling you about it, she expects you to remember it. Listening shows that you care.
- Break Free from the Old Relationship – Let the hang-ups from the past go. Release yourselves from the awkward behavioral patterns that governed your previous interactions. This is where the heart to heart talk about the past can help to serve as a convenient way to come to terms with what happened before and to mark the beginning of a new improved relationship.
- Establish a New Connection – As the adult, it’s your responsibility to take the lead in showing her the way. And since you’re probably the one who created the previous mess, you have to convince her that you’re the new you. Talk in a different, more positive way. Ground yourself with a renewed energy that bursts with excitement to cherish being with her. Don’t fake it. If you’ve sorted out your mindset, this should come naturally. Ask her questions and listen carefully to what she’s got to say. Learn to speak her language. Take notice of what she’s wearing, how she styled her hair and how she’s feeling. At the same time, let her know more about you. Who you truly are. Share stories about your youth – she’ll love to hear you recollect amusing tales of when you were her age. Do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) with her.
- Get to Know Her Properly – Take a keen interest in her. You want to know as much about her as she wants you to know. Dive into her world, her dreams, her aspirations, her friends, her toys, her wishlist, her everything. Make sure you know what makes her happy – this may be what she outwardly tells you and also what you notice from her behavior. You should also know what she doesn’t like and things that she doesn’t care much about. Adults often have a preconceived idea about what kids may like, and often get it totally wrong. So, get to know her likes, dislikes, worries, fears, apprehensions and emotional triggers.
- Become the Father She Wants & Needs – To build up a strong relationship, you need to be there for her. Give her unconditional love and acceptance. Guide but don’t be overly judgmental. Treasure her for who she is, who she has become and who she may turn out to be. Take an active interest in her life and participate wherever you can. Take the initiative to get involved with the things that are meaningful to her. Support her when she’s going through a tough time. Be a confidante who she feels safe to talk to. Someone she can trust, someone who will reassure her, and someone who’s her biggest cheerleader.
Yes, it sounds like a huge mountain to climb. One where you may have to step out of your old skin to welcome a new you. It will be a journey where you learn to let go of emotional baggage and limiting beliefs about who you are, how you should act and what you can or can’t say.
But there’s a lifetime ahead to make amends, and it is most definitely worth the effort.
Just start with a first step to embrace a fresh outlook on what life means, and what ultimately matters to you. Everything else should then fall into place.