When we talk about parenting, sometimes the “default mode” is to refer to topics related to motherhood and everything mom-related. However, we all know that the phrase “it takes two to tango” applies to parenthood, too.
This means that, like mothers, fathers play a crucial role in their children’s life. In fact, Dr. Gail Gross, a human behavior, parenting, and education expert of The Huffington Post, wrote:
“Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians.”
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family life counselor, and the author of the parenting e-book Tending the Family Heart, especially emphasizes the role Daddy (or another father figure) plays in his daughter’s life. She writes on PsychCentral.com:
“From infancy, girls draw conclusions about what men are like from the men in their life. If there is a father (or a male in her life who takes a father role), that man becomes her guidepost for what to expect of men and what to expect of men’s attitude toward women. His relationship to her mother or his significant other is her template for what her relationship with a man will be when she grows up.”
It makes sense to say then that dads should definitely be taking the time to build their relationships with their daughters. Here are some suggested activities to help them do so:
1. Enter her “world of play.” Roy Cornista, an engineer and Chief of Staff at the Office of the Building Official, Quezon City Hall, regularly engages in pretend play with his two-year-old daughter Yana. They like being “doctor and patient,” and Roy even lets Yana put make-up on him — all in good fun, of course.
"It is important to bond and spend time with my little girl because it’s a once-in-a lifetime experience for us both,” Roy shares. “I do not want to go back and regret the things I should have done when she was little, or when I was still young and very much capable of looking out for her.”
Roy adds that he also wants to experience the “special bond” that people say fathers and daughters share. “Even if am not able to teach her how to grow up and become a fine girl/woman, I want her to feel that I am always there for her when she needs me, that in every little step she takes I am there to support her and guide her the way I know and the way I can,” he expounds.
Similar to Roy, dad Marzeus Quintos, a registered nurse, plays Barbie dolls and Disney princesses with his daughter, three-year-old Xin.
“They make up their own storylines,” Marzeus’s wife Precious shares proudly. “They also have ‘story time’ before we sleep, just talking about what happened during the day, or about Disney princesses.”
Marzeus says he makes it a point to spend time with Xin because it’s part of being a “good parent.”
“Spending time with her is also a way of telling her that I love her and that she is very important to me,” he adds.
2. Unleash her (and your!) creative side. HR consultant Jean Paul Alvarez candidly shares how he bonds with his seven-year-old daughter. “We do loom bands,” he says. He’s most probably not the only man who does this either — my husband also counts making loom bands with our five-year-old girl as one of their daddy-daughter bonding activities.
Roy also likes doing creative things with Yana, particularly singing, dancing, drawing and painting. “I want her to remember me when she grows up — that I am a good father, not because I provided for all the material things she needed, but because I was able to give her all the love and time I could,” he says.
3. Be part of her daily routines. Don Vivas does his best to make time for his three girls — Elle, 8, Jill, 6, and Kail, 2 — despite his busy schedule as an HR manager and a leader in his Catholic prayer community.
“We bond during their waking-up routines, review/study time, and cartoon hours on Saturdays,” he shares. “They grow up too fast, and I’m worried that before I know it, they won’t be so little anymore.”
4. Don’t be afraid to try “non-girly” activities. Contrary to what many people may think or say, activities that help build your relationship with your little girl need not be limited to all things pretty, pink, and “princess-y.”
Take the following dads, for example:
Besides bonding over loom band creations, Jean Paul shares that he and his daughter like to play NBA computer games together.
Marzeus, on the other hand, lets Xin sort his screws and bolts. “He also brings her with him to the car repair shop,” Precious says.
“I want to maximize the time that I have when I am the only man in her life,” Marzeus shares.
5. Read books together. Jim Trelease, author of The New York Times Bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook is a staunch advocate of the importance of reading aloud to children.
In one of the downloadable brochures available on his website, Trelease quotes The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which showed that “beginning kindergarten children who had been read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness (phonics) than did children who were read to less often, and were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading readiness.”
This is one of the reasons why dads -- and moms -- should read aloud to their kids.
6. Strengthen her faith. Don and Jean Paul also make it a point to pray together with their respective daughters. “If we have the time, we pray the Rosary before bedtime,” Don shares.
Indeed, helping your little girls (and even your little boys) grow in their faith is important.
Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Parenting, says fathers can show their love to their daughters by “using words of affirmation, offering prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, giving their time and support, and displaying affection.”
Even if you don’t consider yourself “religious,” you might want to consider how to incorporate prayer or other spiritual activities into your bonding time with your child.
There are definitely more than six ways dads can bond with their daughters. Hopefully, the activities suggested here will help more and more fathers strengthen the bond they share with their little girls.
Do you have other tips for dads who wish to bond with their daughters? Share them with us by leaving a comment below.