There are a few things us dads tend to stand back on while raising daughters, but to be honest there is no reason we can’t be involved in these milestones. I will give fair warning though, when dealing with teenage daughters, tread lightly.
I am a father of two daughters, one who is two months away from turning 18 and the other is turning 10 in a couple of weeks. Coming into the tween/teen years for girls can be quite difficult for them, but also for their dads. You start to lose that little girl, so to speak, as she becomes a young woman. She’s changing rapidly and going through a variety of female milestones, both mentally and physically. This can be intimidating to a dad. But this time in your daughter’s life can make or break your relationship, depending on how you handle things. Here are a few lessons I have learned about raising a teenage daughter and navigating the tricky milestones that she’s experiencing on her journey to becoming a woman.
The Trick to Bra Shopping
Whether it’s your daughter’s first bra or her 30th, you need to be able to go into a store and help out if necessary. Sometime helping means just paying for them and sometimes your daughter will ask for more help. First bras are a little easier as there aren’t cup sizes to deal with. Take her to shopping so she can find the style she loves. It is a very big step in a young woman’s life and as her dad, basically just agree with her. Please don’t joke during this one. She will need lots of support from you.
Now, once the teen years come and you find yourself moving away from department stores and their simple first-time bras, you will need to know your stuff. Ask the staff to help size your daughter and make sure she knows what type of support she needs. Style is a big deal too, so have her look around. If your daughter is anything like my oldest, she won’t ask anything and will only want what looks good. Do not judge her based on what she chooses – she is a woman and this is her choice, not yours. This is also the time underwear changes too and for a dad, this is scary as hell. I can remember putting away laundry one day and afterwards my wife asked me why I had put our daughter’s underwear in her drawer. My daughter wears thongs now – please kill me! But again, and I can’t stress this enough, this is HER choice not yours. Some girls don’t want dad around for this and that’s fine; sometimes just taking her to the mall is enough help as long as she knows what to ask on her own.
After the 10th time of being in La Senza (a women’s lingerie store) I did let loose and joke a bit. When the lady asked if we needed help, I turned around holding a bra and asked if she had it I my size. My daughter wanted to kill me for this, but she also knows dad and laughed eventually. I have had the women in the store tell my daughter that it’s special that her dad can help her and not become squeamish.
My youngest daughter has now gotten her first bra too, so this dad gets to start the process all over again. She is already different than my oldest. She and her mom bought her first bra, came home, tried it on, and showed me. I told her it was a great choice and she was beaming. At that age, my oldest daughter just showed what she bought in the bag as she would never dream of trying it on, and that’s fine by me. I still told her it was a great choice and she was still very proud of herself.
Dealing with Her First Period
Another big step in a girl’s life is her first period. My oldest daughter went to her mom for this, but I showed support. I told her to please come to me if her mom’s not around and she needs something. This is the one thing though that she was squeamish with me at first. Finally, after a while, I sat her down and told her I know everything about it, except the feeling itself. I also told her that as a dad I know it’s weird to talk to me about it, but that she should remember I’ve lived with women my whole life – from Grandma to mom – and this has always been around. After that she was somewhat fine dealing with me, but her mom was still the first choice. My younger daughter isn’t quite there yet, but it’s coming. I have a feeling she might be a little more open with me, but if not that’s okay. At least if her mom isn’t around, dad can help.
Now shopping for this is something else. Nothing beats standing in the tampon aisle and talking on the phone trying to figure things out, but I did it and now I’m a pro. Also, the first time your daughter gets bad cramps and you need Mydol, being able to speak to other women in a store is a great help. All you need to say is that you teen daughter has cramps or needs tampons and boom!, problem solved. Trust me, I have not found a woman who wouldn’t help.
My oldest has suffered from cramps that make her puke. There were also heavy months when I had to run to the store for a better tampon. I’ve learned though: keep a variety of them around for your daughter so when things go south you are prepared. Also, stock up on Mydol, Motrin, and Tylenol for all other period problems. I’m as much of a go-to for her as her mom is now. It’s great for her to know that both parents can help out when she needs it, even when dad is a last resort.
Treading Lightly During PMS
This goes hand-in-hand with your daughter’s period, but for a dad it’s the hardest part to deal with. Your little girl will end up being your worst nightmare some months. There have been times when I’ve said something to my daughter and she blew up, yelling and crying before running away. I look at my wife and say, “WTF was that?”, to which she replies, “PMS.” Oh god, where did my little girl go and who lit the fuse on her tampon? (Just a tip dads, don’t say that to your daughter as it will not end well. Probably best not to say it to any woman at all. I probably shouldn’t say it here.) I would love to say I have all the answers, but I don’t. Just know that she will be emotional and you will have to walk on eggshells from time to time. If you joke around like me, during this time maybe take a break – trust me it will save a lot of fighting. Be there for her, but also make sure she knows she shouldn’t cross a line with what she says. Her mom can help her cope with emotions, but so can you. Another tip dads: your daughter is just like your wife – chocolate is key and can make her feel better. The hardest part of PMS is that every month is different, but as they get older things mellow out a bit. Just keep calm dads, it’s the best advice I can give.
Time for Birth Control
I remember my wife telling me our daughter needed birth control and I immediately thought, “WTF did I just hear?! I am going to kill some teenage boy.” I think I had a stroke and heart attack at the same time. Then she explained that it is to help with her period, PMS and emotions. Oh, thank God and how fast can I drive her to the doctors?
This is something that—at a lower dose—will help her through the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster called teenage years. Make sure it is taken properly, otherwise everything will be out of wack and very hard for her.
Just Be There for Her
So all in all dad’s, be there for your little girl. I see and hear far too many dads step back at this point in their lives, when this is when they need you the most. Don’t be the dad that says this is gross or makes fun of the situation. Make her comfortable going through this. Bond with her and it will build a stronger relationship for you both. My oldest has the envy of her friends that she can come to me about these things and they can’t go to their dads. If you step back now, you might lose the connection with her forever.
To finish off, it’s not as bad as it seems. Just remember she needs you even if it’s just for small things.
Image via Flickr by Deborah
loves her more every day. He is also a daddy blogger writing about his family. You can find him at https://droolingdaddy.wordpress.com. Interact with him via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: https://instagram.com/droolingdaddy
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