The Father-daughter relationship: How to stay connected after divorce

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The Father-daughter relationship: How to stay connected after divorce

The father-daughter relationship has far-reaching impact on a daughter’s psychological well-being and identity, even though it is a subject that is one of the most understudied. Although a daughter usually spends more time with her mother, her sense of self is often connected to how her father views her.

Children crave stability and attachment, and girls have a strong desire for authentic connection. An adolescent girls’ need for emotional closeness can be seen in an in-depth analysis found in Carol Gilligan’s renowned book Meeting at the Crossroads: The Landmark Book About the Turning Points in Girl’s and Women’s Lives. Gilligan notes that in our culture, girls tend to focus more on their relational needs that boys do and hence talk about feelings and relationships.

While divorce can be hard on all children, it poses unique challenges for girls, in part because girls tend to crave emotional closeness more than boys do. When a daughter’s family is broken, she may feel broken. In a delayed reaction or what is known as the “Sleeper Effect,” a daughter may go undercover and become more sensitive to loss that may go unnoticed.

Dr. Linda Nelson, a nationally recognized expert on father-daughter relations investigates why the father-daughter relationship can be disrupted so easily after divorce. She says that many daughters suffer from damaged relationships with their fathers even though they appear to be well adjusted several years after their parents’ divorce. If the wound is severe, it could cause a girl to enter adulthood with low self-esteem and trust issues.

Dr. Nelson found, that after divorce, girls tend to spend more time with their mothers and less time with their fathers after their parent’s divorce. Dr. Nelson also found that after the family splits, only 10 to 15 percent of fathers get enjoy shared parenting.

A Huffington post article cited the recent study on “Teen Depression in Girls Linked to Absent Fathers in Early Childhood,” shedding new light on the importance of the father-daughter bond. Girls whose fathers were absent during the first five years of life were more likely to develop depression in adolescence than girls whose fathers left when they were age five to ten years, as found in the Children of the 90’s Study at the University of Bristol. More depressive symptoms were also demonstrated by the girls when compared to adolescent boys whose father left in both age groups.

Paul Mandelstein, in his recent book Always Dad, advises divorce dads to find ways to play a crucial role in their daughter’s life. He recommends that divorce parents call a truce and put an end to fighting and collaborate together. He says the father-daughter connection is very much influenced by the consistency in contact as well as the quality of the relationship.

He has some tips on how fathers can develop a closer bond with their daughters.

-Don’t talk bad about your ex as this may make it more difficult for her to heal from the losses associated with the divorce.

-Try to find ways to help her build her self-esteem by encouraging her to develop interests and recognize her strengths.

-If there are any father-daughter wounds, attempt to help her repair them. Spend quality time doing things she enjoys. Find ways to establish connections through activities and phone calls.

-Encourage her to spend almost equal time with both parents. And be flexible, especially in the teen years when she may need more time for her friends, school, jobs, and extracurricular activities.

At Stange Law Firm, PC, we believe in the importance of family and try to help those families who have been separated. If you are facing a divorce, we can help. Stange Law Firm, PC is solely a family law firm that practices in the areas of divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, and other domestic relations issues.

Source: Fathers and Daughters: Staying Connected After Divorce, By Terry Gaspard,


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