A Message to Moms after Divorce: Help Your Daughters Avoid ‘Daddy Hunger’ – Part II
Here are five ways moms can encourage daughters to have a good relationship with their dads:
- Recognize that your ex is your children’s parent and deserves respect for that reason alone. If your children hear you make negative comments about your ex, it can have a detrimental impact on them.
- Modeling cooperation and polite behavior with your ex sets a positive tone for co-parenting.
- Do your best not to hold onto past grievances. You can help your daughter adjust to post-divorce life by providing loving encouragement for her to bond with her dad. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they will adapt more easily to divorce.
- Keeping your differences with your ex away from your children will open up opportunities to move beyond divorce in the years to come.
- Reassure your daughter that she has two parents who love her by saying something like “Even though mom and dad aren’t married anymore we both love you and are good parents.”
What a girl needs is a loving, predictable father figure — whether married to her mother or divorced. My own research shows that daughters of divorce have a tendency to idealize their father and their fear of losing love causes them to walk on egg shells and avoid confrontations with men. Since most girls see their fathers infrequently after their parents’ split, they may feel pessimistic about love, develop trust issues, and live with constant fear that their relationships will fail. This pattern often follows daughters of divorce into adulthood — making romantic relationships shaky as they get into the nitty-gritty of dealing with issues and resolving conflicts with male partners. After all, as women we learn about intimate relationships through our relationships with our fathers and observing our parents’ interactions.
Certainly a strong father-daughter connection is a challenge when it comes to post-divorce relationships. But fathers can learn to support their daughters and teach them to be confident and assertive. Since a father-daughter wound can impact a daughter’s future, it’s important for moms to encourage close bonds between fathers and daughters after divorce.
Here are five reasons for moms to support their daughter’s relationship with her dad:
- Your daughter will gain trust in both parents and feel more confident about her relationships with both of you.
- You will build trust in your ex’s ability to effectively parent your daughter.
- You may enjoy the benefit of more relaxed leisure time — since your daughter will be spending more time with her dad.
- Your daughter may have better access to extended family and possibly more intergenerational support.
- Your daughter’s bond with her father will reduce the risk of low-self-esteem and trust issues in intimate relationships throughout her life.
Whenever possible, divorced mothers need to encourage their daughters to have regular contact with their fathers and facilitate a close relationship with them. You can promote phone calls, special occasions, and a child-centered parenting plan. According to Eileen Cohen, J.D., a divorce and mediation expert; “Parents can better nurture their children by establishing a child-centered parenting plan that allows a continuing and meaningful relationship between both parents. What better gift is there than that? Your children will thank you for the rest of your lives.”