Emotional and physical closeness are mutually reinforcing. Here are some key principles to help you navigate this tough terrain:
Don’t withdraw. Adolescence is emotionally challenging for father and daughter. Your daughter may shut the emotional door on you, and you may be unable to predict when she’ll even accept a hug from you. That may feel like your daughter is personally rejecting you. Remember, she’s experimenting with who she is becoming, and one way she does that is to push off against someone whom she trusts will continue loving her, even though she sometimes pushes away. So, your task is to hang in there. Sure your feelings will be hurt sometimes, but pain is part of parenting, and the worst thing a dad can do is respond to his daughter’s temporary rejection by abandoning her emotionally or physically.
There’s more to her life than dating. You may think that every girl is totally boy-crazy, including your daughter. She will have a natural, compelling interest in her sexuality. But that is not her only interest; so don’t treat her like it is. Ask about all of her interests – school, girl friends, community activities, sports and other aspects of her life.
• Listen to her. A girl’s voice may be her most important tool. Do everything you can to encourage her to speak up about her beliefs, feelings, ideas and passions – even when they may make you feel uncomfortable. Girls today get incredible societal pressure to focus on their external appearance and to base their behavior on whether or not it is sexually attractive. As the "first man" in you daughter’s life, you have tremendous power to counteract those often corrosive cultural pressures. When you turn the spotlight of your attention and time to her voice, heart, soul and mind, you demonstrate a vital truth – inner beauty matters most.
Be affectionate, never sexual. We all need affection. No matter what stretch she’s traveling on her growing-up roller coaster, your daughter needs you to be in touch with her. It’s often a tough balance to maintain, but she needs you to both respect her physical boundaries and to keep on hugging her. Dad’s physical affirmation and encouragement cements his emotional and verbal affirmation and encouragement. Yes, she’s growing up, and needs you to honor and help develop good boundaries around her body. She’s also still your kid, and needs regular hugs and kisses to feel good about herself.
The Touch Taboo