As teen girls blossom into young women, their developing bodies can make dads feel, well, uh, a bit awkward. While her body may more closely resemble that of a woman, deep inside, she’s still your little girl and will probably act like it, at times. Especially with the well-known reality of sexual molestation, even within families, you have good reason to guard yourself and your pure motives.
Boundaries can be good, but too much distance can be devastating for your daughter and can even encourage her to seek affection elsewhere. While the exact place to draw certain lines may be subjective, one fact is non-negotiable: You’re still her dad, and she still needs you. Below are some basic principles to consider as you navigate the changing waters of your relationship with your not-so-little girl.
As awkward as you may feel the first time you notice that your daughter needs or is wearing a bra or that she’s started a monthly cycle, imagine how she feels: She’s a foreigner in her own changing body. As with any changes in life, the biological changes of adolescence are best weathered by focusing on what remains the same. Too many changes at once can really be hard to take, and as her parent, you can make sure that despite your own discomfort, she knows your love for her is unchanging. Of course, you can also point her to the Only One (Hebrews 13:8) who is truly changeless and can be our Rock (Psalm 62:2) during such times.
Instead of succumbing to the elephant-in-the-room syndrome, at some point, you’ll want to discuss some issues regarding your daughter’s sexuality with her. Depending on your relationship, you’ll want to tread carefully, but there’s only so much her mom can do — after all, you know what guys are like, what they want, and how they think.
She needs to know that how she dresses, behaves, and moves sends signals to guys. Sure, her reaction might be something like “Ew, Dad!” but she needs to know, and you’re really the best person to tell her.
Perhaps above your baby girl’s crib you once had something like the plaque that says “I found my Prince Charming and his name is Daddy.” Nice as that sentiment may be, we all know it isn’t true; she’ll someday kiss a frog and maybe even find a real charmer. But even as other guys enter her heart and life, you’ll still be her dad, and they can’t take that away. (There’s another plaque I’ve seen which says “Someday I will find my Prince Charming, but my Daddy will always be my King.”)
What’s more, the more secure she feels in her relationship with and acceptance from you, the less likely she’ll be to seek that elsewhere, prematurely. Even physical affection needs to continue, to some degree, throughout these changing times.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple: As your daughter grows into a young woman, you want to celebrate the natural changes that occur and make sure she always knows her daddy loves her.