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Father-daughter bonding: building a solid connection

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Challenging old fashioned and damaging ideas: Masc counsellors Tyrone McHardy, left, Ernest Peets Jr and Fitzgerald Williams, will present at “Fathers Raising Daughters: Building Strong Bonds, Overcoming Challenges, Breaking Barriers”, which takes place on Sunday at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, Pomander Road, Paget, from 1pm to 5pm. There will be brunch, followed by a panellist discussion, with separate sessions for girls and men. Tickets, $100, are available at gpass.bm (File photograph)

For fathers with daughters between the ages of 10 and 14, there’s an event on Sunday you probably shouldn’t miss. Fathers Raising Daughters is the brainchild of Antonia Holder, the founder of Mothers & Daughters Empowered. To make it happen, she brought in the expertise of counsellors from Masc – Ernest Peets Jr, Tyrone McHardy and Fitzgerald Williams.

Q: Why do you feel such an event is necessary?

AH: This is not just any ordinary event … this is a transformational experience that was intentionally designed to speak to and highlight some of the common challenges faced by men raising daughters, and also provide tools and resources that will help them overcome those challenges and strengthen their father-daughter bond. The conversations surrounding the afternoon’s itinerary are necessary because being empowered with understanding will allow the attendees to make informed decisions regarding their parenting. We’re going to talk about topics that are uncomfortable, consider the impact of childhood trauma and, most importantly, create an intimate space for the father and daughter to bond.

MASC: Parenting is an awesome responsibility, and in many cases, a life-changing event. At Masc, our primary focus is to provide services specifically for men. [Sunday] offers a unique opportunity to focus on providing support for fathers and their daughters. We posit that the father-daughter relationship is foundational to the transmission of producing healthy and cohesive families.

Q: What does the relationship between girls and dads look like between the ages of 10 and 14?

AH: Adolescence is a crucial period because that is the beginning of self-exploration and the desire for autonomy from parents. It’s the time that girls begin to value the opinion of their peers more than their parents. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when parents, especially fathers, tend to back off because of the uncomfortable realm that’s entered, having to deal with romantic feelings, body changes (menstruation), sometimes severe self-esteem issues and more. Girls feel misunderstood and communication breaks down. Research shows that daughters who feel a stronger emotional connection with their fathers feel more attached to them and the more attached they feel, the lower the likelihood they will feel depressed or have an eating disorder. The father-daughter relationship is critical during this foundational stage.

MASC: There are unique challenges at each age of child development. We felt supporting fathers and daughters in this age group would create the greatest impact. The adolescent stage is an ideal time to inculcate lasting values-driven change.

Q: What are some of the things that dads can do to bond with their daughters?

AH: It’s not always what you do that matters most. Quality time trumps length of time. Daughters need and want dad’s full attention and not to feel like a second thought that you get to or answer right after you finish a text message or scroll on social. There are many simple ways to share a bonding moment. It doesn’t have to be a scheduled date, although those are great.

Antonia’s quick bonding tips

Antonia Holder, who has two children of her own, offers the following tips for fathers looking for help in bonding with their daughters:

1, Learn about one of her interests and ask specific questions relating to it. Allow her to “teach” you and even do it together.

2, Have a tech-free meal together and share a memory that you love. Then ask her to share one of her favourite memories.

3, Before she goes to sleep, ask her what she is looking forward to in the days ahead. Ask her what challenges she had to overcome today.

4, During the drive from school, ask guided questions: Who did you spend lunch with today? What class was the most interesting to you?

MASC: Bonding and making lasting positive connection requires intention, time and consistency. What matters most are the memories and experiences we create with our children. Time together fosters opportunities for communication, relationship building – we cannot underestimate the power of being present.

Q: What are the challenges to the dad-daughter relationship?

AH: Some fathers struggle to express emotions or provide emotional support, leading to a sense of emotional distance in the relationship. In return, daughters feel unvalidated and unsupported, which strains the sense of connectedness.

MASC: Stereotypical roles around how fathers relate to and treat their daughters can create some challenges therefore we need to recognise there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.

Facilitator: Antonia Holder, the founder of Mothers & Daughters Empowered (Photograph supplied)

Q: How does the scenario change for dads raising daughters on their own?

MASC: Single parenting is never an ideal situation. In these types of situations balancing providing for your daughter and nurturing her emotional development at the same time, can be especially difficult for fathers.

Q: What are some of the things stepfathers can do to bond?

MASC: Blended families are often very difficult for all involved. Ask for permission to attempt to bond. Be patient and understand that the child may require time to work through the circumstances involving her parents and may not yet know how to fit you into her life. Be consistent and support her, this helps to build trust and stability. This can be a difficult balance, but also respect her need for space and privacy. From the very beginning do not try to be “replacement” for their biological father; when done right, there is enough room for stepfathers and biological fathers to enjoy a healthy relationship with their daughter.

Q: What happens when the bond isn’t so great between fathers and daughters?

MASC: Parenting isn’t easy, and sometimes our parent-child relationship will go through some difficult periods. During these periods, stick to the basics – be trustworthy, keep the channel of communication open and allow for change on both sides. Keep working at it and remember to be intentional.

Q: In that scenario, is there any way of repairing bridges?

MASC: As parents we don't always get it right the first time, maybe not even the second, but in time, when calmer heads prevail, it is possible to mend the relationship. Essential to this process is an apology of wrongdoing, which should also be accompanied by a change in behaviour, and this is all facilitated by open communication during which time we should listen to their hurt. And finally, part of being an adult is learning to forgive. Remember, it takes two to reconcile, getting there together is key! However, we have to do our part by taking responsibility for our actions, and doing what we can to make amends. As long as no ultimatums are introduced, “broken bridges” typically have a high percentage of being repaired, particularly if a solid foundation was previously laid.

Strong bonds: Fathers Raising Daughters is offering the building blocks to a strong relationship. The event, will be held on Sunday, April 21, 2024, from 1pm to 5pm at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, Pomander Road, Paget (Photograph supplied)

Q: Is there such a thing as the perfect dad?

MASC: No there isn’t. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child. We can however work on improving ourselves. We can be more understanding, we can be more patient with ourselves and with our children, we can listen more to what our children are experiencing so we can support them better. As parents, we all fall short of the mark. Our kids need good parents, they need us to pay attention to them emotionally, be physically present for them and they need us to nurture and guide them. What’s more, perfection is usually the enemy of progress. Fathers and daughters will have to continuously work on their relationships like any relationship.

Q: Generally speaking, how do dads contribute to healthy growth in girls?

MASC: Dads play a vital role in the overall growth and development of daughters namely by modelling acceptable behaviour and helping to shape their understanding of male-female relationships, which is one of the basic building blocks for all their relationships. Dads provide protection, help them become independent, self-sufficient, confident and promote self-love.

• Fathers Raising Daughters: Building Strong Bonds, Overcoming Challenges, Breaking Barriers, takes place on Sunday at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. Brunch and a panellist discussion, along with sessions just for daughters and sessions just for dads, are all part of the experience, which runs from 1pm to 5pm. Tickets, $100, are available at gpass.bm. For more information: antonia@mndempowered.com; mascbda.com; https://mndempowered.com/home/

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Published April 18, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 19, 2024 at 8:12 am)

Father-daughter bonding: building a solid connection

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