One of the most challenging and rewarding roles that men face is parenting a teen-aged daughter. This can be most jarring when the girl goes from “daddy’s little girl” who excelled in school and extracurricular activities to a situation where father and daughter do not want to be in the same room. Developmentally, this is predictable as daughters navigate puberty and the developmental state that psychologists label “individuation.”
The fact that other fathers face this challenge may offer some consolation, but it does not make it easier, particularly if parents are divorced. It’s a fact that the process for maturing is not a smooth one, punctuated at times by a daughter’s meltdowns and complete indifference.
Parents must change too
Parents need to remember that their parenting style should change as the child grows and develops. Rules still apply, but it is best to remain approachable. Other helpful tips include:
- Use appropriate teen-themed movies as a way to engage them about the difficulties they face.
- Respect the greater need for privacy and boundaries, but remind them that dad is still there when they need him.
- Try to be non-judgmental about new interests or new friends.
- Do not be afraid of therapy if she is open to it or needs it. Sometimes the therapy will involve both parent and teen.
- Remember that the teen years will end at some point.
Every parent makes mistakes. The goal is to minimize these miscues are minimal or to turn them into healthy teaching moments. This includes the concept of apologizing. Other typical mistakes include:
- Siding with her against her mother — moms often get the worst of it, so continue to support mom as part of a united co-parent front. This is your opportunity to demonstrate proper behavior for how men should respect women even when they are divorced.
- Opting to become the cool dad — what they need is the same stable dad they can count on to support them while also setting rules and boundaries. A child or teen does not need a playmate or friend.
The right parenting plan can help
Divorced co-parents face many challenges. Parenting plans focus on scheduling and obligations, but good ones also consider the shifting needs of children as they grow and develop. This shift hopefully includes scheduling valuable time together even after they can drive themselves to soccer practice.