Recently, my daughter Nancy turned 13. I am so lucky to have this wonderful human being in my life.
To mark the occasion, I asked fathers who have been here already, and women who used to be teenaged girls, for tips. In hope it might be helpful, I'm sharing the answers here.
If you have any additional advice, please post it below.
“Leave everything to your wife, obviously, like every self-respecting father of teenage girls”
“Just love her. Be her champion, and let her forge her own path in life (even if that means making mistakes, perceived or otherwise). I'm not a father, but I have been a teenage girl. Good luck to you both, and happy birthday to Nancy. x”
“What a stunning picture. Full of pride and innocence! I'm not a father of a teenage girl either but here's what I would love to have known when I was thirteen – tell her she is enough, just as she is. Help her find her personal power and how to stand like Wonder Woman. Let her know her body is hers, and it's absolutely perfect just as it is, with all the wonderful things it is doing for her. Teach her how to say yes, and no, and mean them. I imagine you (and H) are already doing an outstanding job. Happy, happy birthday Nancy! PS you're truly awesome for even asking this Q.”
“You'll already know the crucial bits: love all of her, accept all of her, allow and encourage her to be who she is.”
“Match her, if you can; and if you can't, ask her to wait for you whilst you try to catch up.”
“I think your #1 job is to show her what a great man looks like – so that she won't tolerate any less! (And actually – if she does entertain men who are below-par, don't tolerate it. Sometimes when you're young, you do need someone to step in, especially when you haven't quite found your own voice yet – or don't feel safe to use it. Sometimes you need a champion!) Stay close to her & don't say or do anything to suggest stuff has to change now that she's becoming a woman, eg. ‘Daddy can't see you naked anymore' or ‘That's a question you should ask your mum'. My dad & I stayed close throughout my adolescence & can talk about anything to this day. I treasure that.”
At this point, Nancy found out I'd been asking my friends for advice. So she sent a message too:
“This is Nancy speaking to all my daddy's friends. I am very happy to share so many interests with my dad such as modern family and triple chocolate cookies! Yum! I'm very lucky to have this special person in my life!!!
“I was once a teenage girl and I can say: be supportive and listen to her.”
“Basically, you never stop being the dad of a teenage daughter. I'm 52 and my dad would still kill any bloke who upsets me. Nancy, you'd better get used to that, and happy birthday!”
“Endure! … And love unconditionally, of course, whatever is said or done. The test does come to an end … eventually. Good luck!”
“Keep talking to her, even when she doesn't want to talk to you. Don't ever get heavy handed about relationships, skirts, make up and never EVER mention spots.”
“I was such a naughty teenager – I can't really give good advice and I had teenage sons – but I have every confidence that you and H will be brilliant. Xx”
“What a great question and thread! Teenage years for me were both tricky and magical. Be quietly patient in the tricky bits and share in the magic. And don't be surprised at anything. Teenage years are all about trying on different guises. Keep your sense of fun and adventure (although I'm trying to preach to the master!). Happy birthday to you both x”
“As the father of a 12yr old daughter, soon to be 13, I am sending you both love and good wishes on this next stage of her/your journey, AND I'm harvesting all this hive wisdom for my own parenting. Thank you John-Paul.”
“You do have to be sensitive as to when to give space but also to realise when you are actually really needed, so listen well, never shame or tease and yes love unconditionally and keep communicating through it all, congratulations! Another wonderful young woman is emerging x”
“You must remember that as her father you are just sooo embarrassing! It's part of your job. Don't try not to be. That's even more embarrassing! Make her laugh.”
“I remember the teen years – my advice would be – don't freak out! There will be days when emotions run wild and apparently the whole world is the enemy – take a deep breath because in 45 minutes the air could be filled will laughter again. Did anyone say roller coaster?!? Xx” [Was this advice, I asked, for me or for Nancy.] “For you – your heart will burst with worry sometimes and it's hard not to rush in and panic only to have peace restored all by itself without your intervention. Best advice I had was ‘be a soft place to land'”
“My advice is just be yourself and you will both be appreciated and loved for it -even though there may be times when it does not always seem that way. For example, from a personal point of view, my father passed away when I was 9 and I can remember all the lovely things he did like loving my attempts at baking jam tarts! The simple and most basic things are the best. You really do not have to work at it. Be your wonderful self and through thick and thin it will all be just perfect ☺”
“JP, you and your wonderful friends made my face leak. You have a habit of doing that with your magical posts. Such wisdom in these responses. I have a few thoughts sloshing around in the recesses of my mind and if they ever become coherent enough to share here then I'll pop back to add them to this thread. But the truth is you've got this. Happy birthday to your beautiful daughter X”
“Enjoy every minute, read lots of stories.”
“Stay neutral. I remember so many instances when I would get into a rage with my Mum and my Baba would just listen and not take sides. And he would sit on the sofa with his arm stretched across the back so that I could cuddle up to him if I wanted to. Being with him felt safe.”
“Having been a teenage girl; support the relationship your teenage girl has with her mother, whilst crafting your own space with her too. The mother/girl child dynamic is complex and challenging in these years, they will both need your love and support. Give her space to play with adulthood safely, she will push to widen her forcefield, it is your job to negotiate with her ambition and fear to find the middle line. Reinforce that her brain and compassion are her greatest weapons, you will be a small voice against a huge media telling her to judge her value in other ways. Her heart will break many times, most often from the pain of friendship dynamics, hold her tight. Happy birthday Dad xx”
“Be her rock. Be the steady point she can dance around, like a maypole – she can dance and wander far but keep the attachment and come back cos you are always there. Don't judge the stuff you don't understand. Don't try always to understand, just accept. Make her laugh. And keep watching Modern Family together!”