Raising Your Daughter as a Single Dad

Father holding daughter's hand at the park
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Raising children is not easy even for the most seasoned parents. But when it comes to being a single father and raising a daughter alone, that is one parenting scenario that can be particularly daunting. Not only must you navigate all the social situations, complex feelings, and developmental changes your daughter is experiencing, but you must do it without the help of her mom. But rest assured, you are not the only dad facing these challenges.

Whether you're divorced and the custodial parent, your spouse abandoned the family, or you're a widowed dad, the challenges in raising a daughter as a single parent are very similar. Of course, there will be obstacles along the way, and you won't always know the right answer; but, with a little effort and a willingness to try, you can raise a wonderful daughter. Here are some key suggestions for tackling this important task successfully.

The Pew Research Center indicates that the number of single dads in the U.S. increased from 300,000 in 1960 to 2.6 million in 2011. That figure represents a ninefold increase as more and more dads are taking on the challenge of raising a daughter (or son) alone.

Don't Go It Alone

While you are completely capable of raising your daughter alone, never underestimate the importance of inviting a female mentor into your daughter's life. For some dads, a grandmother, aunt, or other family member can take on that role. For others, it might make sense to enlist the help of a mom with a daughter the same age as your daughter. You also can ask for help from a female church youth leader, Girl Scout leader, or athletic coach.

Finding a strong and capable female role model is important to your daughter's success growing up. By having a woman walk alongside her, she will learn how to become confident and independent. Consequently, helping your daughter find and connect with a mentor is one of the most important gifts you can give her. Taking this step, in no way means that you aren't capable of being a great dad. It's just another layer of support and encouragement for your daughter. Every girl needs to be surrounded by people who believe in her and support her.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Many men tend to take an "I Must Fix This" mentality in their lives and their relationships. If this describes you, then you may listen long enough to identify the problem, and then offer a solution. But, your daughter usually won't want you to fix her problems. Instead, she wants you to listen and understand what she is experiencing.

Learn how to be empathetic and compassionate, and your daughter will continue to come to you as a shoulder to lean on. Of course, keeping the lines of communication open requires time, patience, and a willingness to make it a priority. But communicating with your daughter on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to build a strong relationship with her.

Teach Her to Be a Problem-Solver

When it comes to problem-solving, both sons and daughters need help in developing these skills. As a result, when your daughter is faced with a challenge or a difficult choice, sit down with her and help her think through the issue. Encourage her to examine all of her options and come up with several alternatives for dealing with the problem.

While this process can feel counter-intuitive, especially if you are a take-charge kind of guy, allowing your daughter to develop some independence and autonomy will serve her well throughout life. Plus, she will appreciate the time you take to help her think through different issues in a rational and constructive way. Remember, you are empowering your daughter when you help her develop these skills.

Don't Rescue or Be Overprotective

While it is natural for fathers to want to protect their little girls, it is not healthy for her in the long run. As a result, allow her to experience some of life's problems and challenges without rescuing her or trying to shield her from experiencing pain. If you are overprotective, your daughter will either rebel or become dependent, and neither of those outcomes is positive.

It's also important to give your daughter some space. Respect her privacy when appropriate. And, allow her to take some limited risks. All these things will help her gain self-confidence and learn to believe in her abilities. And, in the meantime, you will build a bond of mutual trust because you have demonstrated that you believe in her as well.

Be Involved in Her Life

As a single dad, your daughter needs to feel your support, especially because you're all she has. As a result, you need to be regularly available to her and involved in her life. This means take an interest in the things that she's interested in. For instance, if she loves the stars take her to a planetarium. Watch a meteor shower together. Talk about the latest discoveries and research regarding the stars and the planets. Showing her that you're interested in her passions demonstrates that ultimately you're interested in her.

You can support her in other ways too. For instance, be home in the evenings if you can. Help her with her homework and ask about her day. Attend her athletic contests and school events. Take her shopping, out to dinner, and to the movies once in a while. And, be around the house when she has friends over.

The key is that you are an involved parent and present in her life. When you're available to your daughter and make opportunities to be together, your relationship will grow and you'll build a strong bond between the two of you.

Don't Shy Away From the Big Issues

Sometimes helping your daughter through the transition of puberty into adolescence can be a single dad's greatest emotional challenge. The best approach is to be upfront and honest about what she's experiencing in terms of hormones, emotions, and menstruation.

If you don't know the answers, find out. Do your research. Enlist the help of her trusted female mentor if you feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to say. But make an effort to help her. Don't ignore what she's experiencing or pretend it isn't happening.

And, if you're feeling especially awkward talking about hormones, menstruation, sex, and other similar topics, explain why you feel awkward before having her talk to her mentor. If you don't explain, she might think there's something wrong with her or she might question your relationship. Open and honest communication is always the best policy.

Also, don't shy away from those fatherly hugs just because she is growing up. Girls often feel unsure about how their body is changing; and they need to know that your love has not changed. They may be older, but deep down they still want to be your little girl. Being a constant source of love and support in your daughter's life will help her get through this challenging time.

A Word From Verywell

It can be overwhelming to raise a daughter alone. But, you can do it if you are sensitive to your daughter and her needs, and invest time in your relationship with her. In the end, you'll find great satisfaction in raising a wonderful daughter.

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