by Patricia Hughes
Most parents understand that their influence is important for their children, which is why so many parents spend time reading and thinking about parenting. Most of the research and news focuses on the importance of a stable family for children, but new studies have focused on the role Dad plays in his teenage daughter’s life.
A study conducted at the University of Illinois was published in Child Development journal. This study looked at the correlation between sexual activity and parent-child relationships. Researchers interviewed over 3200 teens and their parents. The questions centered on interaction with parents.
Parents were asked questions regarding their knowledge of their kids’ friends and how they spent their time. The answers were scored based on how much the parents knew about their teens and friends. Researchers compared this score with the rate of sexual activity in the teens.
What they discovered is the teens with more positive parental interaction had lower levels of sexual activity. A close father-daughter relationship and Dad taking an interest in the girls’ lives made them even less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Every point scored on the scale that measured knowledge of their daughters translated into at least a three percent reduction in sexual activity. So, the more time you spend getting to know you daughter and interacting with her, the less likely she will be to have sex in her teen years.
Waiting to have sex is only a part of the picture. Dad offers so much more to his little girl. Girls learn many important things in their daily interactions with their fathers. One important lesson they learn is self respect. When Dad shows respect to his daughters and his wife, the children are learning a valuable lesson and learn to value themselves.
An abundance of research has shown that fathers influence the type of men their daughters choose in relationships. When the father-daughter relationship is positive and strong, daughters tend to make better choices. Just as the pattern of abuse can be continued from mother to daughter, so can a pattern of healthy relationships be passed along to the next generation.
With every interaction, a father shows his daughters what is acceptable in a relationship and what is not. When dad is interested in her life, attentive and loving, his daughter is more likely to choose a mate who treats her well and is supportive.
What Dads Can Do
There are some things father can do to capitalize on these positive affects. The most important thing to do is to stay close to your teen. Keep trying to connect with her. She may avoid you, or even push you away. That is normal. You can take solace in the fact that she is likely treating her mother much worse.
Despite their loud protests, teens actually do want their parents in their lives. Set expectations for family time and spending time together. Sharing meals is a great way to keep the conversation going. Taking your daughter out to lunch can be a good opportunity to listen to her and learn more about her world.
Talk to her about love, relationships and even sex, but in a relaxed conversation, not preaching. Teens immediately recoil when they think their parents are lecturing and tune us out, mothers and fathers alike. Take it slow and talk openly and honestly about love and your own experiences as a teen boy. Girls love hearing the perspective of a guy and talking together builds trust. This will make your daughter more likely to come to you for advice in the future.
If you feel dizzy at the thought of talking about sex with your daughter, you are not alone. Almost all fathers feel uncomfortable with these conversations. Websites such as http://www.stayteen.org/ can help you figure out where to start and give you great tips for having discussions about sex and teen pregnancy prevention.
Talk about other subjects that are important to your daughter. Encourage her to confide in you about her hopes and dreams, as well as her problems. In these conversations, she will learn to set goals for her future and make good decisions in her daily life. When kids are focused on the future, they are less likely to make big mistakes and engage in risky behavior in the present.
Pay attention to your daughter and be alert for warning signs that all is not well. Changes in behavior, sleep patterns, relationships with friends and family and school work can be typical for teens, but can also signal that your daughter may be at risk of getting into trouble. Getting involved sooner, rather than later, can make all the difference.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing connecting with your daughter with becoming her best friend. While it is important to stay close, she is counting on you to enforce rules. Talk about why her education and safety are important and explain why rules and expectations are important for your family.
Spending time with your daughter and taking an interest in her life will build her confidence. Girls with higher self confidence are less likely to engage in risky sex or other dangerous behavior. Find activities that you both enjoy, or try something new that interests her. Finding a shared interest will help to build your bond.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.
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