It’s no secret that divorce is hard on kids, but as a divorced dad, you have a huge amount of influence on how your daughter will perceive herself and future relationships.
Unfortunately, research is showing that the father-daughter relationship post-divorce is often damaged, which in turn has long-term effects on her self-esteem. Her observations of how you treat her mother can impact her view of how she should be treated as a woman. For tips on a positive co-parenting relationship, read our recent blog: 5 Co-Parenting Tips For When You And Your Ex Don’t Get Along.
Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist, non-fiction author, and college instructor who specializes in divorce, children, and relationships. She researches and writes extensively on the father-daughter relationship post-divorce. “Since a daughter may perceive limited contact with her divorced dad as a personal rejection, this can lead to lowered self-esteem and trouble trusting romantic partners during adolescence and adulthood,” says Gaspard.
Why is the father-daughter relationship so vulnerable to disruption after a parents’ divorce? In a divorced family, there are many ways a father-daughter bond may suffer. Based on her research, Dr. Linda Nielsen found that only 10 to 15 percent of fathers get to enjoy the benefits of shared parenting after divorce. Nielsen posits that “While most daughters are well adjusted several years after their parents’ divorce, many have damaged relationships with their fathers. Unfortunately, if the wound is severe, a girl can grow into adulthood with low self-esteem and trust issues.”
This does not have to be the case, or the outcome, of your situation. Fortunately, there are many things you can do as a divorced dad to develop your daughter’s self-confidence and give her a positive outlook on relationships. Your influence can have a lasting, positive impact on her life.
“What I often share with fathers is that fostering their daughter’s self-esteem post-divorce is a top priority because girls are so vulnerable to cultural influences. For instance, there’s evidence that daughters who feel connected to their fathers experience more satisfaction with their bodies and ultimately higher feelings of self-worth.
For the most part, a good relationship with an intimate partner is strongly tied to a woman’s relationship with her dad. A father’s presence (or lack of presence) in his daughter’s life will affect how she will relate to all men who come after him and can impact her view of herself and psychological well-being,” shares Gaspard.
The importance of your role as a divorced dad in your daughter’s life should not be taken lightly, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Don’t shy away from the responsibility or assume that her mother will handle the “hard stuff”. Showing interest, giving encouragement, and being present will make a lasting impact on her life and all it takes is some time and intentionality.
Ways A Divorced Dad Can Boost His Daughter’s Self-Esteem
- Talk to her every day.
- Spend as much time with her as possible, making it a priority in your life to do things you both enjoy together. Take her on “Daddy-Daughter” dates.
- Ask her questions and have meaningful conversations about things that are important to both of you – school, friends, news, work, etc.
- Compliment her talents and abilities more often than you compliment her appearance – but do both.
- Treat her mother with respect and dignity and do your best to maintain a positive relationship with her.
- Give her a safe place to express her emotions in a healthy way. Validate them.
- Teach her how to do the things you’re good at, don’t do them for her.
- Allow her to be independent and make decisions in the context of safe, healthy boundaries.
Don’t let your relationship with your daughter become a statistic. If your child custody arrangement is keeping you from being the best-divorced dad you can be, The The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates can help.
If you are preparing for a divorce where child custody and child support will be major factors, Charlotte Christian is the family law attorney you want to be on your side. Contact The The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates today to schedule a consultation.
For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
Affirm Your Love
When you don’t make a deliberate effort to be in your daughter’s life after divorce, they are bound to blame themselves. For instance, your daughter may think you don’t love them because of their behavior. They may also think they aren’t fun and not worthy of your time otherwise, you would go to great lengths to be with them.
To avoid such negative assumptions that affect your daughter’s self-esteem, continuously reassure them that you love them. Verbal reassurance is critical whether in presence or absence. If you fail to spend planned father-daughter time because of unforeseen circumstances, reassure your daughter that you still love them, and your absence can never change how you feel about them.
Divorce is bound to affect your children negatively even when you plan everything to the letter. However, this shouldn’t mean you result in lies. You can’t make excuses for an irresponsible parent. Lying makes it impossible for your daughter to express themselves.
If your EX cancels because they are sick or at work, communicate the same and allow your daughter to express their feelings. Let them vent and don’t apologize for the actions of an absent parent. Encouraging expression empowers your daughter. It also eases frustration. Even if the situation can’t improve, your daughter will feel better that you made a conscious effort to deal with the situation.
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Plan For Eventualities
Divorce isn’t perfect. There are days when your EX won’t show up. To avoid plunging your daughter into self-doubt and other related emotions, have a backup schedule that addresses such episodes. For instance, you can have a special activity with your daughter to divert the negative emotions associated with the letdown.
The planning should be meticulous to the extent of knowing how long you should wait for the other parent, activities to do, how to respond to potential questions that your daughter asks, etc. If you can predict and plan for eventualities that affect your daughter’s self-esteem, you won’t be caught by surprise.
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Don’t Fight Your Ex in Your Daughter’s Presence
Ongoing parental battles between you and your ex-wife are bound to shape how your daughter views relationships and themselves. While divorced parties may get into heated exchanges, you should never argue in the presence of your daughter. While you shouldn’t agree with everything, your ex-wife says just because your daughter is present, aim for respectful exchanges.
Open arguments are bound to make your daughter tense and anxious. While many fathers avoid visitation to decrease the odds of heated exchange, it helps to choose peace without neglecting your daughter. Even if you suspect your ex-spouse is bad-mouthing you, peace is always better for your daughter.
You should never fight your EX or neglect your daughter to avoid conflict. Regardless of your feelings, be civil. If you can’t, you can pursue other avenues, such as seeking a new custody arrangement. However, your daughter’s self-esteem is bound to be affected if she sees you fighting her mother.
Always Leave with a Smile
Co-parenting will reduce the time you used to spend with your daughter. They’ll always be that time you don’t want to leave your daughter and vice versa. To counter negative feelings associated with busy schedules or custody arrangements, always purpose to leave your daughter on a positive note.
Don’t make your daughter guilty about leaving you and going to spend time with her mother. While parents are guilty of blackmailing their kids during visitation, your daughter will grow up emotionally stronger if she experiences both her parents.
Keep Your Home Open
There is nothing as empowering as opening your doors to your children. Assuming the mother has physical custody, your daughter should be free to visit any time she wants. Making your daughter feel loved, wanted, and welcome is critical for her self-esteem after a trying ordeal like divorce.
Children can tell when you seem disinterested. Whether you have remarried or dating, making your home accessible will maintain the sense of security required to boost their self-esteem. Impromptu visits should be welcome and dealt with love. Don’t make your daughter feel they are interrupting your life when they wish to come over. Instead, purpose to be interested and supportive.
Be Civil About Your Daughter’s Mother
You should never talk badly about your ex-wife in your daughter’s presence. It’s unhealthy for children to witness their parent’s conflict regardless of the circumstances leading to the divorce. Most importantly, your child’s best interest dictates that they should have a relationship with both parents to grow up emotionally stable.
Unless the divorce was linked to extreme cases of violence, child abuse, or related cases, daughters grow better when they have a good relationship with both parents. Even when conflict arises, compromise and allow causes of action that are in the best interests of your daughter. Ideally, parents should co-parent with a united front. Even if your ex is uncooperative, pursue routines and engagements that eliminate bad-mouthing and similar instances. Ultimately, your daughter will expect to be treated how they see you treating their mother.
Avoid “Blame Game”
Lastly, you must avoid blame games. Children are bound to make mistakes. Instead of taking the “I told you so” approach when your daughter does something wrong, focus on the unconditional love approach. Your daughter should know that you love them regardless of their mistakes. Approaching the relationship with love has a greater positive effect than using common sense.
Regardless of the circumstances, blaming your daughter for failures usually results in negative self-talk. Instead of accepting correction, they may feel victimized, stupid, angry, and unloved. All these feelings erode self-esteem in the long turn. While correcting your daughter is a must, the focus should be on unconditional love and acceptance no matter what. In fact, a daughter who knows they are loved by their father no matter what is bound to be empowered to do what is right.
Talk to a seasoned divorce attorney for more on how a divorced dad can boost their daughter’s self-esteem. Experienced divorce lawyers can give legal advice and refer you to professional divorce counselors specialized in all divorce matters.
Don’t let your relationship with your daughter become a statistic. If your child custody arrangement is keeping you from being the best-divorced dad you can be, The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates can help. If you are preparing for a divorce where child custody and child support will be major factors, Charlotte Christian is the family law attorney you want to be on your side. Contact us via phone at (256) 769-0508 and schedule a consultation.
Call or text (256) 859-7277 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form