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 postdivorce 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.
Here are 8 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 Alabama Law Group 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 Alabama Law Group today to schedule a consultation.