The day after Father’s day, it seems important to reflect upon the incredibly influential role fathers play in the lives of girls.
Studies have shown school-aged children of involved fathers are better academic achievers, get higher grades, do better on standardized tests, and are more likely to attend college. They show a greater tolerance for stress and frustration and are more likely to score high on measures of self-acceptance and social adjustment.
In addition, having an involved father protects children from engaging in delinquent behaviour and is associated with less substance abuse among adolescents, less delinquency, less drug use, truancy, less drinking, and a lower frequency of negative behaviors such as acting out, disruptive behavior, depression, sadness and lying. Adolescents who strongly identified with their fathers were 80% less likely to have been in jail and 75% less likely to have become unwed parents.
Just being present is not enough, however. Children are better off when their relationship with their father is secure, supportive, nurturing, and warm.
In every category of social health and well-being children with supportive, loving fathers tend to do better than their peers with absent or emotionally uninvolved fathers. For girls, a father can provide extremely important emotional support as they navigate the challenges of teenage-dom. Sometimes, fathers can find it difficult or confusing to help their daughters through adolescent challenges they never personally faced. We asked women for examples of ways they personally felt supported by their dads.
My dad is continually supportive of my interests, even when those interests defy ‘traditional expectations’. He also instilled in me the conviction that all people deserve respect, acceptance, and equality.
My dad taught me a lot of valuable lessons/skills I am so happy to have now as an adult like changing a flat tire, first aid and telling a good joke.
I appreciate that my dad made sure that I understood the financial world from a very young age. In my house it was never assumed that I would financially depend on anyone when I grew up. He would help me take my savings to deposit at the bank, showed me how to buy bonds, and let me help him balance his checkbook. I loved how grown up it felt to do these things as an elementary student and the lessons have stayed with me through the years.
My dad never talked down to me, wasn’t afraid to show emotion, supported my interests and provided a model of manhood that showed me showing emotions was its own kind of strength.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have fathers in our lives, or to have fathers who provided positive support and encouragement. This certainly doesn’t mean that we are destined to a life of low-self-esteem or poor choices. It just means we must be even more aware of the importance of taking control of our own destiny & our own futures. For some of us, uncles, stepdads, teachers, coaches, and brothers can serve as positive male role models. And some of us are lucky enough to have moms who provided unconditional acceptance, modeled love and respect for their own bodies, encouraged communication and gave us support to help us grow up brave and strong. Single mothers show us through their amazing resolve and hard work how it is possible to be both a mom and a dad, the breadwinner & the emotional heart of a family. They show us that being strong & loving are not mutually exclusive, for mothers or fathers.
Many men who are fathers also may have grown up without a positive male role model, which can make knowing the steps to take to be a supportive dad even more difficult. Remember, make sure your daughters (and sons) know that there is no door that is closed to them, that they are just as capable of being a teacher as an engineer (and both choices are equally valid), and that you will love them always and regardless. Be brave enough to show weakness. Treat others with respect so your children learn to do so. Don’t be afraid of periods– your acceptance will show your daughters and sons growing up is nothing to be ashamed of.
This isn’t everything, of course, but they are important pieces in the journey of being a father who empowers his daughter. Check out these other posts from dads for more advice on how dads (and all men) can be advocates and allies for girls and women.