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Dads, Daughters and Puberty

I'd like to speak to dads about their daughters as they approach and move through the changes of puberty.

So many fathers become confused and distant as their daughters enter puberty. How does one relate to the beloved girl-child whose breasts are springing, whose eyes are wiser, whose moods stormier? What could one possibly say upon the occasion of her First Blood?

Likely as not your parents avoided the topic of menstruation. Your daughter’s mother may seldom speak of the menstrual cycle. You may feel uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassed and perhaps shame. Acknowledging First Blood means acknowledging that your daughter has a vulva, a vagina and womb. She can give birth now. And there’s no skirting around the fact that she is a sexual being. This is off-putting stuff to many men!

Dear dads, I have so much empathy for you. Please know that many moms barely broach the topic of menstruation, except perhaps to hand their daughter a book. So this can be tough for parents of all genders. But our culture has made it especially tough for dads to show up for their pre-teen and teen daughters.

But showing up is what it’s all about, dearest fathers. It’s that simple. And you can do this, I promise you.

Throughout puberty, being present with your daughter is one of the greatest and most essential gifts that you can give her. Spend time with her. Do things together that you both love - especially side by side physical activities such as walks and bike rides. Talk about what matters to you. Ask about what is important to her.

Read fantastic stories featuring strong, capable, determined girls.  If she's still elementary age, try Father and Daughter Tales by Josephine Evetts-Secker.

At the time of menarche, your presence, your words of congratulations, your respect for her journey toward womanhood – all of these convey all the things you want her to know, that you’ve been showing her since she was born: That you unconditionally accept her - from top to bottom, her highs and her lows, how she changes and how she stays the same - in each nanosecond. Including her changing body, her surging emotions, her new social life, her sexuality, her soaring dreams, her dark moments, her evolving spirit. That you love her, unconditionally, in her totality. That you will be there for her.

Let me step back, dads, and say again: It’s the showing up that matters. Hang out with her. Check in with her. Have fun with her. Keep hugging her! These simple acts of fathering will make a world of difference to your daughter as she navigates the terrain of puberty and adolescence.

Please leave a comment.

…What does this leave you wondering about?

|… What small positive step can you make this week?

Photos by Filtered Light Photography and Leona Darnell Photography