HOUSTON, TX - When I talk with fathers about their unborn children, most of them are comfortable with the idea of a son but are a bit more apprehensive about having a girl. They worry they’ll have nothing in common and or wonder what they conversations will be like.
As a society, we’ve put a lot of pressure on moms to take on the majority of parenting, especially the emotional aspects. Often we forget about the incredible impact engaged dads have on their children. In a time of turmoil with #metoo and sexual assaults, maybe we’ve forgotten one of the major influences in a daughter’s life is her dad. Fathers who treat their wives with respect and are actively engaged in family matters raise daughters who feel more confident and trusting of their relationships with men and can communicate openly and honestly.
Relationship and family therapists have put together a list of raising daughters who feel like they are enough and what they do matters – no matter what they look or dress like. To create a society where women and men are valued equally, we need parents who instill these values early in the child’s development.
- Ask me how I am feeling and listen to my answer. Your ability to value my feelings helps me understand my true value.
- I learn how I should be treated by watching how you treat my mother, regardless of marital status.
- When you show grace or forgiveness to me or someone else, I learn to trust God a little more because my understanding of God when I am small is coming from you.
- When you’re angry and you don’t talk about it, I watch you act things out and it confuses me and makes me anxious.
- How you talk about female bodies on TV or in public is what I believe about my own. When you talk badly about women, I begin using that as my self-talk.
- When you talk gently, I learn that being strong can also include gentleness.
- When you let me help paint the house or change a tire, I believe I am competent and can do anything a boy can. It builds confidence in me.
- When you protect me, I feel as though I am valuable and worth protecting.
- When you hug me, I understand what a loving touch is, and I don’t let others abuse or hurt me.
- When you trust me with tough conversations, I believe I am bright and you are proud of me. I remember these conversations because you teach me that not everything is easy.
If you find yourself telling your daughter to go talk to her mother about something, you may be losing an opportunity to help your daughter understand the differences between the way men and women think. You also may be forfeiting an important part of your daughter’s connection with you. She needs you to step up, be willing to listen without relating, and love her enough to teach her to value who she is and what she can do. Sexual assault happens to women and men, but the numbers are more staggering for women. Dads have an incredible ability to minimize those statistics if they begin when their little girl is first placed in their arms. –Mary Jo Rapini