Teenagers are, in a word, complicated. They have a lot going on physically and emotionally so it’s no wonder they can feel like their parents don’t understand.
Many fathers can find it particularly difficult when they have a daughter that’s a teenager. Perhaps their relationship has changed, and a once close relationship now feels rather distant.
While there is no step-by-step guide to teenagers (if you figure that out, have fun living on your own private island) here are some things for men to keep in mind about their teenage daughter.
1Her body is changing and that’s weird for her too
Puberty is the real thorn in the side of the tween and teen years. Your daughter is dealing with hormone shifts and the physical developments that accompany them. She is going to get her period at some point, so try to get comfortable with that. You may even need to help her out should a period “emergency” occur.
Not all men are uncomfortable with pads, tampons, and cramps, but if you are, try your best not to make her feel more awkward than she probably already does. Your daughter should never feel ashamed of something she has no control over. If you didn’t grow up with sisters, it’s probably not something you are familiar with and seems “uncomfortable”. For the sake of your daughter, try to come to terms with this on your own because the last thing you want to do is make her feel more vulnerable than she already is when it comes to her changing body.
2She’s worth more than her looks and you need to remind her
Women and girls are bombarded from a young age with messages that they are not good enough. Teenage girls, in particular, are susceptible to an unattainable and unrealistic “ideal” image. This is the age where many girls develop eating disorders or engage in self-harm.
In addition to being on the lookout for indicators that her mental health is sound, let her know that she’s more than her physical appearance. It’s easy to tell her she’s beautiful (because she is) but let her know you see her determination, admire her athletic ability, or are proud of her creativity.
3You have an impact on her educational goals
Whatever your daughter chooses a career, you want to give her a strong foundation to pursue her heart’s desire. She can’t do that without an education. As her father, you can be the voice of reason and encouragement when it comes to her academics. While you should not expect perfection, having high expectations and helping her attain her academic goals will benefit her the rest of her life.
4She sees how you treat other women
You and your interactions, particularly with other women, are setting a precedent. She sees and hears how you act toward and talk to other women. As a general rule, you should treat other women how you want her to be treated.
She should already expect respect from other men out in the world because she has seen your model. You should be setting the bar high. This model influences her future intimate relationships (if she’s into boys) but also those from authoritative sources like bosses, coaches, and any other man that is likely to be an authority figure in her life.
Relationships can get dicey and you may not be with your daughter’s mother. That’s fine, but you still have to exhibit respect when you interact with her.
5She needs you to show up
You may be busy, but it’s essential to know what events are most important to your daughter and show up. This could be a particular sporting event, a musical performance, or an awards ceremony that she is a part of. It could even be a prom.
All that matters is that this event is meaningful to her, so it should be a priority for you to attend. You don’t have to be at every single event that your daughter is ever a part of (that’s rather unrealistic), but you have to determine the most important ones and show up to support her.
6Take an interest in her interests to help reconnect
Teenagers can have some peculiar interests, at least to their parents. Take one or two of those things, like a particular musical artist and find the commonality. Maybe you can even introduce your daughter to something that was particularly special to you as a teenager. Don’t try too hard; teens can smell desperation. But you would be surprised at how natural it is to reconnect with your teen when you can find common ground.