There’s something that’s just so precious about a daddy-daughter bond. Watching a man transform into a hair-braiding, tea-party-having father is enough to make any heart melt. Watching my husband with my daughter is hands down one of the best parts of my parenthood journey.
But aside from making all the partners swoon, a father-daughter relationship is actually super important for child development. Having an encouraging father figure has been shown to have a marked difference on self-esteem and confidence. According to Linda Nielsen, a professor of educational and adolescent psychology, “the well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling.”
So if these relationships are so important, what can we do to foster them?
Simply, forging a strong relationship boils down to spending quality time together. That takes on many forms, depending on your interests and physical abilities. But what you do matters much less than the act of doing it together. Still feeling stuck? Here are some examples to get you started.
Teach by Example
Okay, this first one isn’t really a concrete example of an activity, but it’s important nonetheless. If you want to raise a daughter who is respectful and confident, model that behavior yourself. Compliment the women in your life, actively discourage criticizing others, and treat everyone with graciousness and respect. Your child is always watching and, by extension, always learning.
Go on Vacation
If you can swing it, consider a daddy-daughter only vacation. Even just a night away can really help—eliminating the day-to-day distractions allows you to focus on the most important thing: your relationship. When deciding where to go and what to do, why not ask your daughter? Pick something that is meaningful for her, and you’ll win her heart.
Find a Hobby
What activity could you and your daughter do together? A pottery class? Parkour lessons? Book club? Think about her interests, and find something local that you can enjoy together. Bonus points for activities that require teamwork or communication.
In truth, you don’t need fancy vacations or expensive hobbies. You just need to be present. When she’s an infant, take care of her physical needs. Play with her. Insist that your partner get out of the house for a bit while you look after your little one. When she moves into tween/teendom, make a point of having conversations with her. Be interested in her life, know who her friends are. Notice behavior changes. Be open and approachable. By just being there, you are making a world of difference.
You can also fill this role for other people in your life. Have a niece, stepdaughter, granddaughter who could benefit from more strong adults in their lives? Not all families are structured with one mom and one dad, and life isn’t always packaged with such a neat little bow. Look for opportunities to strengthen and empower the women around you. You’ll never regret it.