GIRLS FORUM: See Dad

February 5, 2009 posted by admin How often is a girl’s Dad hidden in plain sight? Seeing fathers is an innovative step to increase and sustain girls’ self-esteem and self-efficacy considering the numerous obstacles they face. Seeing Dad is also a step that’s readily available, if not always easy to take. The power and potential of father-daughter relationships remain fairly invisible among advocates for girls and professionals working with girls and their families.  But a moment’s reflection reveals how important Dad and/or Stepdad is in Daughter’s life. Nearly every adult woman can identify ways her father (and/or stepfather) influenced her. Ask any group of adult women about their relationships with their fathers, and you rarely get a lukewarm answer.  You’ll hear something along the lines of either “He’s one of my heroes” or “He’s an [expletive deleted].”  Dads have unique influence in the lives of their daughters and stepdaughters.  A father’s actions (and inactions) set the standard of “man” for his daughter—what she can expect as normal from boys now and men later.  Dad also profoundly affects his daughter’s concept of “partner.”  His behavior in relationship with his daughter’s other parent(s) sets her standard for what’s normal and acceptable from her own eventual life partner(s), regardless of gender.

Yet, when I gather with family professionals, dads and stepdads seldom enter the conversation.  They tend to be invisible to most people working to help families—despite the fact that a father or stepfather’s meaning and influence is unavoidable in a daughter’s life.  It’s like Dad is hidden in plain sight. I train professionals on how to start recognizing – and making smart use of—this readily available resource. They are invariably thrilled to learn ways to mobilize and utilize dads.  If you care about girls, I urge you to quickly learn how to integrate fathers and stepfathers more centrally into your work—if for no other reason that the fact that your work will get done more efficiently if you make smart use of this “new” tool! When a dad learns to listen to girls, takes his daughter seriously, and shines the spotlight of is healthy attention on her—she is far better inoculated against the dangers she faces in our world.  That’s what we want, and the potential of dad-daughter relationship can get us there. Learn more @ www.dadsanddaughters.com. --Joe Kelly is author of the best-seller “Dads & Daughters®: How to Inspire, Understand and Support Your Daughter” and the father of twin daughters. He blogs @ http://dadsanddaughters.blogspot.com. This post is part of a forum


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Comments

Research is now showing that fathers have profound influences on their children, both boys and girls. To take one example of an unconscious, biological effect: Daughers in homes without fathers enter puberty earlier than daughters in homes with fathers. It's not clear why, but it demonstrates that a father's presence--whether he's a good father, a bad one, or simply uninvolved--can influence something as fundamental as a child's hormonal system. I think your point that most daughters have strong opinions of their fathers--whether good or bad--is important. Paul Raeburn Fathers and Families blog.
I am such an admirer of your work, Joe Kelly, and so thrilled to see you here on NCRW's blog!!