10 Keys to Raising a Girl Without a Father in Her Life

The plight of fatherless daughters has been gaining some attention on the part of social scientists and parenting experts in recent years. From a 2013 television episode on the Oprah Winfrey Network to ongoing social science research, the experts have been actively documenting the challenges that fatherless daughters face growing up, and how their experiences differ from girls who grow up with a dad in their lives.

Consider some of the impacts on a girl’s life that come from the lack of a father as she is growing up.

  • Struggles with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness
  • Lack of standards in her life as they relate to men
  • Loss of a sense of security
  • Lower levels of well-being
  • High levels of anger-related depression
  • Emotional challenges in intimate relationships
  • Earlier sexual activity and teen pregnancy
  • More likely to marry in their teenage years
  • Much more likely to have a baby outside of marriage
  • Much more likely to be divorced at some point in her life

Whether ​a father is not in the picture due to death, divorce, abandonment, or incarceration, the challenges are still the same.  And a mom or grandparent often ends up trying to fill the gap in a girl’s life, with varying levels of success.

If you are a parent of a fatherless girl, there are some important ways you can use to help her cope with the lack of a father and avoid some of the likely negative outcomes that can occur in her life.

1
Find a Consistent and Connected Father Figure in Her Life

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Girls need to have a positive and long-term father figure in their lives, and when that doesn’t happen with their biological father, it may need to happen with another good man. Sometimes a grandfather is a good option, or it may be an uncle. Be certain that the male role model you select is exemplary, loves your daughter, and sets the right kind of example for her and for you.

2
Recognize the Positive Coping Methods She May Be Using

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Your daughter may have already developed some good coping mechanisms for dealing with the lack of a father in her life. You should reward and recognize positive coping mechanisms like talking openly with you, being aware of how men treat her and other girls, standing tough in the face of a boy or man who might want to take advantage of her and staying connected with a good network of friends and family members. When you see some warning signs that she may be trying to attract male attention from the wrong kind of boys or may be depressed or discouraged, help her use her strong coping mechanisms and character traits to avoid further problems.

3
Help Her Find Positive Male Role Models

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Besides family members, help your daughter find some good role models in other parts of her life. These good guys may be the fathers of her friends, an athletic team coach, a teacher, or a member of your clergy. When she sees first hand how good men behave and how they interact with other people, she can begin to determine the character traits that define good men. And avoid bringing a long line of men home with you, especially those that might be dangerous or simply poor male role models for your daughter. Make sure that the men you interact with, and that have interaction with your daughter, are exemplary and positive.

4
Find the Right “Village”

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Remember the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” The single parent of a fatherless girl needs to surround herself and her family with a nurturing and supportive group of friends, family members, and others. If your best friends are your clubbing partners and don’t set a good example for your daughter, you may want to rethink how you choose your friends and the people who have an influence on your daughter. Connecting with friends that have a good man as their child’s father may not always be comfortable, but those connections can help your daughter.

5
Establish Mom as a Parenting Authority Deserving of Respect

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One of the things an exemplary father does is to demonstrate respect for the women in his life. A single mom sometimes tends to let respect take a back seat to being “friends” with her children. By demonstrating and demanding respect in her parenting, she can compensate in many ways for the lack of a father that may teach the same thing. 

6
Know Your Daughter’s Friends and Help Her See Them as They Really Are

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As girls grow, they tend to be more heavily influenced by their friends than their parents. There is a world of difference between having friends that build a girl’s self-esteem and have positive male role models in their own lives and having friends that don’t bring those traits to the table. Good friends can also set reasonable and healthy boundaries, which can help any girl in the group learn that it is not just OK but essential to have those kinds of boundaries with guys in her life.

7
Help Her Find Opportunities to Improve Her Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

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One of the key potential losses for a fatherless girl relates to her self-esteem. She needs a strong sense of self-worth to survive and thrive in her world, and lacking that self-esteem may lead her to seek validation in all the wrong places. Get her into activities that tend to build self-worth. Things like sports, school clubs, church groups, music, and dance can be great sources of self-esteem for a girl.

8
Praise Her Character More and Her Appearance Less

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Girls without dads may also struggle with self-worth as it relates to her appearance. Fatherless girls will often try to compensate by dressing immodestly, using too much make-up or stressing about her weight and body image. By focusing on her good character traits and activities, parents can help her see that she is so much more than her appearance. Put her in situations where she can excel and where she can develop some of those positive characteristics that will help her have a good self-image without inappropriately focusing on her appearance.

9
Listen to Her When She Vents

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Often, fatherless girls struggle with issues and may find themselves angry, hurt or confused because of the lack of a father. Listen actively when she shares her feelings and thoughts, and make sure that she sees you as a safe source of love and wisdom. Resist complaining about her lack of a father, and help her see that healthy communication can help her find her way through the sense of loss.

10
Find Your Own Support Network

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Finally, a mom of a fatherless daughter needs to be strong herself and exhibit the things that she hopes her daughter will model. Connect yourself with other moms who are raising daughters alone but in a positive way. Take some classes, participate in women’s groups in your community or your church, and read some good books about parenting. Talk to friends whose parenting wisdom you trust. As you strengthen your own parenting skills, you can be a better parent for your children.

Sources:

"Daddyless Daughters&rsquo": How Growing Up Without A Father Affects A Woman's Standards And Choices

The Fatherless Daughter Project.

Jackson, L. M. (2010). Where's my daddy? Effects of fatherlessness on women's relational communication. (Master's Thesis, San Jose State University). SJSU Scholarworks.