Divorcing fathers who have daughters – especially those in the pre-teen and teen years – too often face the argument that girls need their mothers more than their fathers as they mature into young women. Mothers can use this argument if they’re seeking primary custody, and sometimes judges (and even the fathers themselves) believe they have a valid point.
While girls certainly benefit from having a close relationship with their mother, it’s crucial not to underestimate the importance of a healthy relationship with their father. That relationship can determine their success in their future romantic relationships, their career and how they view themselves.
Fathers, body image and self-respect
A father can have a significant effect on his daughter’s body image – for better or worse. Men who criticize or tease their daughters about their weight, appearance and other physical characteristics can do serious damage. Having a father who doesn’t objectify women (either for being attractive or unattractive) can help a girl tune out all of the other voices telling her what she “should” look like.
A father can also provide a good role model for their daughter of how men should treat women, which can help keep them out of toxic, abusive relationships later. That needs to be modeled not only in how they treat their daughter but her mother as well. That means being respectful to and when talking about his former wife, regardless of how he may feel about her.
Other positive outcomes of a strong father-daughter relationship
Among the other positive effects a healthy father-daughter bond has been shown to provide girls are:
- Greater academic achievement and overall persistence
- Fewer psychological issues, substance abuse problems and aggressive behaviors
- Better communications skills with both genders
A good father-daughter relationship doesn’t mean that you give in to everything your daughter wants. Both parents need to set rules and expectations and enforce them. It’s often tempting to try to be the “fun” parent after divorce – particularly if you don’t see your child as much as you’d like. However, it’s better when parents can agree on these rules and enforce them in both homes.
Don’t hesitate to seek the parenting time and responsibilities you believe you deserve and that are what’s best for your child’s well-being. Having experienced legal guidance can help you make a strong case.