The start of the new school year can be a nerve-wracking time for our daughters and stepdaughters.
Here are 12 simple things Dads and Stepdads can do to help!
1. Listen to what’s happening. If she’s stressed or upset about cliques, teams, new subjects, or anything else—give her your attention. Give her time to get things out and do some processing before jumping in with judgments or suggestions.
2. Help her keep perspective. Gently remind her that there are more important things than who’s wearing what, or who is going out with whom. Let her know (in word and deed) that you love her for who she is, no matter what.
3. Look at the big picture. Sit down and ask your daughter what a successful school year would look like for her; friends, sports, activities, boys. Really listen and then talk about how important each goal is to her and if she thinks each one is realistic. It’s OK to discuss your expectations regarding grades, but remember the important lessons learned outside the classroom and all the pressures which face our girls today.
4. Treat yourselves as special. Take her for a drive for ice cream or something you know she loves. Keep summer alive by going swimming, shooting hoops, or anything else you enjoy doing together. The beginning of school is a great time to begin a new tradition and connect with her through listening. How about a lunch date the last Saturday of every month?
5. Let her cope and experiment. School can be a great place for her to learn important personal and interpersonal skills which will serve her later in life. Don’t rush in to solve every problem – listen. But never back down where her personal safety is concerned.
6. Walk a mile in her shoes. Try to imagine what she’s experiencing and what it means to her. Your example of understanding and empathy can help her make it through her own trials.
7. Celebrate success. We sometimes tend to focus more on what’s not going right more than we do on what is going well. Be sure to let her know how proud you are of her talents and accomplishments—even if they are not readily recognized by others.
8. Be her hero. Stay always mindful of her unique spirit and give her your loyalty, kindness, acceptance, respect, and support. Your influence in her life is unique, so make it as positive as possible.
9. Tell stories about yourself. Many things have changed since your were a kid, but most of the important stuff is still the same. Share your own youthful struggles with staying true to yourself, your values, and your friends. Don’t make every story into a lecture, and be sure to admit your mistakes---that can teach her a lot!
10. Honor her interests. Even if her passion isn’t your first choice for fun, be there for her, let her teach you about her interests, and learn why she’s passionate about them. Your validation is a huge help to her.
11. Help her sleep. Start a “school schedule” bedtime and wake up drill the couple of nights before school and/or in the early weeks of school so it won’t be a shock to her or you. To help with the transition, let her have a long, quiet bath by herself. You can help by giving a foot massage, singing her to sleep or just sitting quietly by her bed to help her relax and go to sleep. If you keep this ritual going once school starts, there’s no telling what you might hear from her if you listen during these quiet times. And that’s more important than rushing to your TV to see who the next Apprentice will be!
12. Say the three magic words every day. Don’t let any 24 hours pass by without telling her and showing her that you love her.
To learn more about healthy fathering of girls, visit our website
DADs: Making the world safe and fair for our daughters