Your were there for the “terrible twos” and the tantrums, but lately, as a divorced father, you are realizing more and more that your little girl is growing up — without you. It can be hard to connect with a teen with whom you share a home, but for fathers with shared custody or just visitation rights, a lot can slip through the cracks.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still share meaningful experiences with your teen daughter during the time that you two share. If you are a dad who is struggling to reconnect with his teenage daughter, the following suggestions may be helpful.
1. Realize you fulfill a needed role
Don’t lose hope if you feel that the bond between you and your teen daughter is loosening. That just means that you need to redouble your efforts or try a different approach. Research shows that girls who have a relationship with their dads during the teenage years develop their own healthier relationships. They also are less troubled by mental health problems and have more self-esteem than girls who navigate their teens without their fathers in their lives.
2. Understand the normal teen behaviors
One day your daughter may want to cuddle with you on the couch. The next, she might be slamming the bedroom door and screaming that she hates you.
Like it or not, these behaviors are typical of teens who are straddling the netherworld between adolescence and adulthood. She may have stepped tentatively into the adult world and have a driver’s license and a part-time job. But she also still has one foot firmly planted in childhood. It’s a new world she’s navigating — and she won’t always get it right. Be there to pick up the pieces when her world is crumbling.
3. Remain present
Although she may act as if she couldn’t care less if you are there, underneath that tough exterior is a little girl who still needs her daddy to show up in her life. During your time together, make sure to share meals and catch up on her life. Also, share your life with her. Let her know that she remains a very important part of your day by calling her just to check in. If she has a game or a play, show up and be her biggest cheerleader (without embarrassing her, of course).
4. Connect with her in special ways
Whether it’s a daily coded text of “ILY” or remembering to bring her some of grandma’s homemade chicken soup when she is felled by the flu, you can find all sorts of ways to strengthen your bond.
5. Show her that she matters
While she may still be a teen, your daughter has opinions about what’s going on in the world. Ask who she supports for the 2020 election and why. Really listen to her answers and show that her opinions matter. Keep her abreast of important events in your life. She’s a big part of your life after all.
If you feel that her other parent may be alienating her affection, it may be time to revisit the custody arrangements by seeking a modification.