The relationship between a father and daughter can be incredibly sweet but it can also be fraught with heartbreak when “Daddy’s little girl” grows up and falls in love.
There is a transition period for all parents and their children when mom and dad are no longer the primary focus. The days of our children wanting every bit of our attention and affection turn too quickly into parents feeling all but invisible. This is a natural process and as challenging as these growing pains may be for parents they are entirely necessary.
When it comes to fathers and daughters this special bond can be extremely difficult to loosen up on when that time comes. According to neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louanne Brizendine, fathers can actually feel a bit jilted when their daughters fall in love.
Brizendine says, “They almost feel like they have been left at the alter. Often they think, ‘what did I do wrong? How do I get her back?’ They had this really special, close relationship between dad and daughter then all of sudden she takes the off-ramp from that relationship.”
While both parents suffer from the pulling away that happens when their daughter falls in love for the first time, fathers tend to feel particularly abandoned. Dads can also be plagued with the notion that they know what young men are like, since they were one once. All they seem to remember at these moments are the raging hormones of their own youth and they are filled with horror for their baby girl.
From these feelings are born the often-heard semi-jokes from dads about how they aren’t letting their daughter out of the house until they are 30 or how they will be cleaning their shotgun when their daughter’s date arrives to pick her up. From the moment their daughter is born, fathers report an overwhelming sense of protectiveness and these feelings never really go away.
Dads should take heart though that while their little girl may not return from this phase as the dependent all adoring being that she once was, she will return. In loving father-daughter relationships the connection never really goes away, it just changes form as part of the natural cycle of life.
Dads who are particularly sad or depressed about this phase should reach out to other fathers of a daughter. Joe Kelly, the author of Dads and Daughters
, and the father of twin girls, says that, “Veteran dads are valuable.”
Kelly tells dads to, “Trust your daughter. It’s much easier to do if you’ve been able to trust her all along. View trusting your daughter as a way of building her strength, as the most effective way to protect her because then she can protect herself.”
The relationship a father has with his daughter, for better and for worse, colors the relationships she has with other men in her life, and most fathers know this intuitively at some level.
So when daughters begin to sprout wings, dads hope that - to the best of their ability - they have gotten it right.
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