You may (or may not) buy your tween or teen a Valentine’s Day gift to remind them that they are loved and cherished. Flowers, chocolates and dinner dates are all traditions that some families adopt in order to nurture the identify of their girls.
Having a father or father figure come home with roses for both mum, and his daughter, is a very cute idea. Not many girls will say “no” to a rose, even if it is only from their boring old dad. However, I believe it’s the meaning behind that rose which can carry even more power. It’s that meaning I want to extract out of you!
Dads, can I convince you to write a thoughtful note to go with her rose this Valentine’s Day? Why not use this time of year as an opportunity to write your daughter a letter about dating, relationships, life and values? Why not seize this moment in time and use it to communicate about what matters? After all, they will never experience Valentine’s Day as a 14-year-old again.
I want you to know how much notes amplify your message. Teen girls keep notes. I promise they do. They read them when you aren’t looking. They read them when they feel lost or abandoned. Notes can say what we often stumble over in face to face conversations. They cut to the heart of important matters. I’m a big believer in notes!
You might title your note, “Things I want you to know this Valentine’s Day” or “10 reasons you are my Valentine.” It won’t matter if you are poetic or to- the-point, short or long winded. As long as it comes from you, it will say exactly what it needs to say.
There is a high chance that your daughter is going to fall in love with someone sooner than you anticipated. I know… it’s hard to come to term with. You blinked and she’s a young woman. She will soon have to navigate blissful, confusing and exhilarating feelings of love, and she is going to need your help.
To help get your head and heart in teenager girl land, and prepare you for this amazing note you are about to write (…can I sell it any harder??!), I have included four things that I’d like to remind all dads about. To me, these are base line dating essentials that all young people need as they navigate hormones, peer pressure, their own developing identities, first crushes and breakups.
1. Good relationships need boundaries.
Teenage girls don’t often realise how critical boundaries are in ALL relationships. Boundaries help us protect us, while ensuring we love people well. They give us a voice while tuning our ear to others needs. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship without boundaries, but they are complex and take time to learn how to establish.
Ultimately our girls choose the boundaries they place around their heart and life. And while they are learning? The best way to guide your daughter is through connection, and meaningful conversations. Don’t be tempted to ‘control’ them, or harshly rule over them. That strategy has a very limited life span! Your girl is developing her own moral compass, and you soon won’t have a say unless you have an inroad into her heart.
2. There is nothing wrong with waiting.
Jenny: Dad can I go out with Sam?
Dad: Where are you planning to go? To the bubbles and then the tuck shop? And whose money are you using?
Dating in high school can be a bit try-hard. A hold holding session at school hardly makes for a relationship, so relax with it all a bit. Most teenage relationships last about 6 weeks and end in the weirdest ways! I see the craziest, most immature interactions between boys and girls in the middle school years!
I, along with research, see a lot of benefits from delaying dating. If you decide to suggest your daughter wait until after high school to date, please know that I share your opinion. In reality however, there is only so much you can control.
The hardest thing about high school dating is the messy break-ups. If your girl does go through a break-up, try and refrain from saying, “I told you so.” Instead, remind her how strong she is. Even more helpful than fighting her battles is encouraging her to fight them for herself. She’s got this, as long as you are in the trenches with her, holding her to her potential. Love and life will be a good teacher if your daughter is blessed with you in her journey.
3. Develop good taste.
If you have a “wait” dating policy in your home, the temptation is to shut down discussions about boys altogether. However, I’d encourage you to do the opposite, knowing that crushes and sexual feelings are normal.
The teenage years are the perfect time to practise “liking someone” and having “good taste”. The moment you know your daughter has an interest in someone I want you to be saying, “What’s so special about this boy? I hope you have good taste!”
Good taste often develops over time, and it is influenced by healthy interactions with males (yourself included), and unfortunately the pain of poor choices. Good taste ensures girls look for red flag, warning signs. Good taste is foresight, wisdom, intuition and facts all rolled into one. Good taste is what we want all teenagers to develop.
4. Talk about sex.
Sexual activity at the right time, at the right place, with the right person, is a wonderful thing. Sexual activity at the wrong time, with the wrong person, in the wrong place, can be very damaging in a young person’s life.
One day your girl will look back over her high school years. I don’t want her to look back in regret. I would hate for her to struggle with trust and intimacy because she hasn’t had healthy experiences at a critical time in her life.
Not enough young people are crystal clear about issues of consent, and they rely on parents to shed light on these topics. It’s a tough topic for a dad to bring up, but they desperately need to hear from you! There is no one who can give her a male perspective the way a father can.
4. Get to know you.
Here’s a conversation I had with 14-year-old Joey….
Me: If you really knew how hot you were, you wouldn’t date losers.
Joey: Hahaha. Thanks…I think.
Me: Before you get a big head… You aren’t any hotter than any other girls your age. You are all lovely. I just want you to appreciate how lovely you are! Don’t miss the moment.
There is strength in knowing who you are. Before girls start dating I want them to believe in themselves and know that a partner won’t make them any more or less. Dads, please don’t stop telling your girl that she is beautiful, but make sure you also affirm how strong, bold, courageous and kind she is, and that she is a complete soul just as she is.
RECOMMENDED READING: Everyday Resilience: Helping Kids Handle Friendships, Academic Pressure and the Self-doubt of Growing Up.