I receive occasional alerts about court cases through my e-mail that involve domestic violence or family issues. Today I saw a case flagged that didn’t seem to meet the criteria, mostly because it was a father-daughter situation and not an intimate partner relationship.
The case was about a teenage girl who was living at her father’s house. Her father had done some snooping and found out that the girl had been shooting pornographic video of herself on her cell phone. She had been sharing it with her friends and classmates. In response to this, her father became very strict. He limited her contact with her friends, put her in therapy, and threw down a regimen of rules to establish some type of order.
After a couple months under this regime, the girl ran away to her mother’s. Soon after the girl was placed in a psychiatric treatment facility and then continued with a therapy plan after she got out. During this time, her father told her that she would not be allowed back into his house unless she wrote an apology letter to him and his wife. Many years passed. She never wrote the letter and he never allowed her back into his house. This was a child support case where the mother was seeking more money for having their daughter 100% of the time.
This case made me cry. There are three people affected by this scenario- the father, the mother, and the girl that no one loved. I can tell you that is exactly how she is feeling and thinking during this time. I know because I grew up in a like situation. I hadn’t done pornographic videos but I had lashed out at my dad after he left my mother and married another woman. My father and his new wife cut me off.
I was sixteen years old and a daddy’s girl. I loved my father more than anything in the world for many years, but soon we began to drift apart. He became more strict and less friendly with me. When I expressed myself in the fashion of a teenager, he had no clue how to handle me. I can see how the father from this case is trying what he believes is best for his daughter, but partly he is protecting himself from further hurt by her.
This girl has some serious things to work through. When her father was faced with such a startling and scary discovery, he did what he felt was right. Most people should not do this. With a situation this fragile and significant in a person’s life, it will always be best to consult with a professional. It can be through books or a therapy session. It seems like this father attempted to reestablish control in his daughter’s life but that was not what his daughter needed. She needed to hear he still loved her. She needed a hug. She needed him to tell her that she is beautiful and doesn’t need to share her body with others.
The worst thing a father can do is approach a teenage girl as if she is a man. She is not a man. She is a girl going through the toughest years of her life, possibly. Healthy boundaries are always encouraged. Set realistic and healthy goals with each other. Talk to her about the things that are going on in her life. Show her that she doesn’t need to look for attention from others because she can find a healthy, loving attention from her father.
There are three things that every teenage girl needs from her father. While there are many more as well, if you can do these three things then you are on the right track.
1) Show Her You Care
There are very easy ways to show your teenage daughter that you care about her. If your daughter is into soccer, offer to watch a soccer game on TV with her. If she prefers to text and talk on the phone with her friends, then send her a cute text sometimes making a silly joke. These small acts will let your daughter know that she is being thought of and that someone cares about her.
2) Get to Know Her
It’s not always enough to simply care about someone. Women, in general, want to know that someone is interested in who they are. This can easily be achieved by having a conversation and showing an interest in what she has to say. It is that simple. Be an attentive listener.
3) Provide a Safe Space for Her
You are her father and you are the man who will shape her future relationships. She should feel as if she can come to you for anything. That is achieved by creating a non-judgemental and protective space for her. When she admits to things that are hard for you to hear, give her support and tell her how brave she is for opening up. You will want to encourage this dialogue because it means she will feel safe to talk to you about things if ever she might be in a dangerous situation.
These three steps are great places to start when it comes to connecting with your teenage daughter. Remember that even if she lashes out at you, she still loves you more than anyone in the world. She just hasn’t developed emotionally enough to communicate in a healthy and loving way.
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