A Date with Dad

Tonya Stoneman

Ask a teenage girl to go clothes shopping with her father and her most likely response will be a high-pitched, "Eeeeew! No way!"

That's exactly what one perceptive mother required of her husband and daughter. The stipulation was spelled out clearly: either the daughter agreed to go clothes shopping with her dad or there would be no new clothes for school. Naturally, the girl consented. The experience proved enlightening and profitable for both daughter and dad. The father learned what was "in" and what was "out", who his daughter liked and didn't like, and how expensive it was to clothe a teenage girl. She learned that her dad would rather do anything than shop, that music was definitely different in his day, and that modesty was important.

girlwithchickenBy stepping out of their comfort zones, this father and daughter accomplished more in one afternoon than some fathers do in a lifetime. A dad is the most influential person in the life of his daughter, whether either realizes it or not. A loving relationship between a father and his daughter can lay the foundation for a girl's attitudes toward relationships, marriage, and especially God.

Girls who are secure in their femininity tend to have fathers who encourage them to reach their fullest potential as women.

The converse is true for daughters who have poor relationships with their fathers.

Knowing how to relate to a man can be challenging for a woman who has never interacted with her father. Connection with a loving father provides a daughter with the basic resources to navigate through her relationships with others.

Fathers become a reference point for girlsQuite often fathers become reference points for what a man should be in a woman's life. Daughters look at their fathers to determine what men are like–how they look, act, and talk. By watching their fathers, they decide how men should treat women and what fathers are like.

"Dads are needed so badly. No one can take their place in the home–not the mother, not the grandparents, not the school system, certainly not the government, and not even the church. Dad is essential," says Dr. Paul Faulkner, author of Raising Faithful Kids in a Fast-Paced World. "If his job isn't done by him, it just won't get done."

If you're like most fathers with teenage girls, raising your daughter was easy when she was little enough to sit on your lap and listen to fairy tales. But something changed when she reached adolescence.

All too frequently fathers and daughters pull away from each other during this critical time when their relationship is most needed.

Fathers busy themselves with work and daughters spend time on the phone or hanging out with friends. Soon, the two find they have nothing in common, and relating to one another is almost impossible. They've grown worlds apart.

Sometimes parents are acutely aware of the developing chasm, but they struggle to find ways to bridge the gap. The remedy is old, but it's tried and true: nothing mends a kinship like time spent together.

Dad and daughter "dates" are a wonderful way to replenish this vital relationship.

Go out for coffee, pizza, or ice cream–just the two of you. If you have more than one daughter, spend time with each one individually. Find a quiet place where you will feel comfortable enough to talk freely. The two of you can mull over questions like, "What do we both like to do? In what ways are we similar or different? What are some things I do that make you feel embarrassed? What is something for which you are proud of me?"

Spend time reminiscing over fond memories of things you've done together. Take prayer requests from one another and remember to pray for each other.

Fathers and daughters will both benefit greatly from keeping a journal of their special times together.

Things you might want to record in your journal are: What did I learn about my dad/daughter from this experience? What was the highlight of the event? How are we different? How are we similar? What are we going to do together next month? How do I feel about that? Share with God your feelings, thoughts, and concerns about this relationship.

Dads, how much do you know about your daughters? When you take that first step toward bridging the gap, you'll find out the two of you share more in common than you ever imagined possible. Suddenly your intimidating adolescent will become the girl you used to cuddle at bedtime.

Don't wait to experience the joys of being your daughter's father. Set a time within the next month to do one of those things you both like to do. Make this a priority and stick to it. You might get season tickets to your favorite sporting event, buy tickets to the theater, or, if you're really brave, go clothes shopping with your daughter!

-Tonya Stoneman

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