Unlike my friend, a dad of teenage daughters needs to think about their daughter’s dating in advance. This friend had not thought about giving dating advice to his daughter until it was almost too late. As the guy showed up at the house for the first date, this dad went to get his daughter, only to find her in her bedroom closet in tears, with anxieties about the date, the guy and how to manage her conflicting emotions.
It was one of those father and daughter moments that this dad would never forget.
It the world in which our teens are growing up, dating is fraught with challenges but filled with opportunities for fun and getting to know friends better. It is important that we help our daughters understand the important concepts behind having a good dating experience so that they don’t miss the fun and the socializing aspects of dating.
So, having raised teenage daughters through the dating years, and after having talked with lots of dads who have teen daughters, I have put together some important dating advice that dads can share with their daughters. These five ideas to share with our daughters are imperative for them to grasp and understand as they start their dating experiences.
- Be confident in who you are. Starting the dating years with a good self-image and a level of personal confidence makes all the difference in the world. Helping your daughter understand who she is and what she stands for certainly starts long before the teenage years, but the message needs additional focus during this time when insecurities can creep in. Remind her that she is always enough, and that she doesn’t have to do anything to fit in.
- Set your own boundaries. Deciding in advance the boundaries she will establish in dating is important. As a dad, you can and should help her think through the boundary issues. For example, how will she act when a young man raises his voice or otherwise demeans her in his presence? How will she react when a guy tries to get physical or make sexual overtures? What will she say when the guy is driving and doesn’t appear to respect her? Guys that are worth dating will respect a girl that sets appropriate boundaries. Make sure that she knows what she will allow and what she won’t, and that she knows that you are just a text or a cell phone call away when she is out on a date.
- Guys are not into drama. Despite the fact that teenage girls seem to be all about “hidden messages” and reading things into every nuance of a relationship with their friends, guys are not that sophisticated. If she has a rough patch in her dating relationship with a guy or experiences some teenage jealousy, talk about it and then get over it. Bringing it up again and again only strains the relationship further. And the guy probably won’t even remember the issue a few days later. Help her see that just because teenage guys seem dense, they are really not bad people - they are just teenage guys. And they are also not that into the things that are going on with and between her friends, so keep those conversations to the girls.
- Dressing modestly actually empowers you. Help her understand that what she wears not only reflects on her, but is also an opportunity for self-empowerment. Being comfortable and modest will allow her to focus on the things that really matter and let her beauty shine from the inside out. Although dressing fashionably can be fun, it shouldn't be the primary reason a guy likes her. So keep the important body parts covered, and do it stylishly, and she'll set the appropriate stage for the right kind of dating relationship.
- It is OK if you want to date and OK if you don’t. Not every girl is ready to date at a certain age. While most experts suggest that creates real problems for guys and girls, even at 16 some girls would rather be with her girlfriends in groups than with guys on dates. Encouraging your daughter to have social experiences in groups can be a good precursor to dating, and dads can encourage these group “hangouts” by making their homes teen friendly. Your daughter should not feel pressured by her parents, her friends or others to date before she thinks she is ready. You can help her have the confidence to say “no” when she wants and to say “yes” when she is prepared.
The relationship between fathers and daughters is a special one and she will look to you for the most important dating advice she will receive.
Make sure you communicate what is important to you and help her feel confident and comfortable as she enters the world of dating, and you can help her have a good experience and enjoy her teen dating years.