Father-Daughter Relationships by: Emily Katherine Dalton

It was a few days before Father’s Day as a student and I anticipated its difficulty together.  I lost my father a year ago to a heart attack.  She lost her Dad about fifteen years ago to another family and another life he chose.

Loss is loss.  And the loss of a father runs deep, touching countless facets of a child’s life, especially the life of a daughter.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three children lives without their biological father in the home.  One in three face the daily loss and disappointment of an absent father.  Unfortunately, this statistic is unchanged by church involvement.  Absence can be caused by death, divorce, addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, work, or, dare we say it . . . ministry.

As this student and I talked, she shared about the parts of senior year she was looking forward to, while also anticipating the events her Dad would miss.  She looked forward to going to college and the adventures of a new season, but she feared leaving her mom completely alone.

Fathers play a crucial role in a girl’s life.  Fathers teach their daughters what a father should look like, often laying the groundwork for how they will come to understand their Heavenly Father.  Fathers teach daughters how a man of God carries himself, subconsciously teaching them what to look for in a man.  Fathers teach daughters what a healthy relationship of love and respect with the opposite sex looks like.  Through this, fathers demonstrate the immense worth of their daughters. 

To imagine what a girl’s life without these lessons would look like is to foresee many of the issues faced by girls in our world today.   Issues such as unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex leading to abuse, rape, teen pregnancy, divorce, etc. are not solely caused by absent fathers, yet it is interesting to note the increase in such issues as more and more fathers abandon the responsibility of raising their families.

So why does a daughter need a father?

  1. To lay the foundation of understanding God. 
    Youth workers, a girl may be really afraid of a God who claims to be a Father.  Her trust may have been betrayed by a father due to absence, sexual abuse, or other issues. 
    Fathers, don’t take this lightly, but also don’t remove yourself from the equation because you know you can’t complete it perfectly.  Love your daughters with the love of their Heavenly Father, and when you don’t have the strength or wisdom you need, press into His.
  2. To teach them about boys.
    Youth workers, you know that girl you are always worried about finding herself alone with a boy?  Or the girl whose Instagram posts have far too many comments from boys? Get to know what her home life is like.  Often, this girl is meeting a need for male attention with boys that is not met by her dad.  Don’t shame her, focusing only on her behavior.  Be with her in the pain of the loss of a father.  Show her how worthy she is of love and attention.  Lay a groundwork for God that will first take some tearing down.
    Fathers, don’t just make jokes about defending or protecting her from boys.  Have real and honest conversations with your daughter about what you are praying for in her husband, how easy it will be to settle, and how much you are willing to listen and be there for her. 
  3. To demonstrate their worth.
    Youth workers, you can teach lessons on self-worth all day long, but unless a girl’s worth is demonstrated to her, deep down she will never believe it.  Male youth workers, demonstrate girls’ worth by respecting them.  Make every effort to protect them, never be alone with them, sacrifice for them, and take genuine interest in their lives.
    Fathers, spend time with your daughter.  Get off your e-mail and get to know your daughter’s friends.  Find things to do together that you both enjoy.  Prove to her she is a priority by choosing her over work, errands, and, dare I say it, football.  The bar you set for love and respect is the bar she will set for men in her life.

Since losing my dad suddenly when I was twenty-two years old, one of the greatest needs I have faced is figuring out how to carry the heavy stuff.  Moving furniture, boxes of books, and all my clothes just a few weeks after he passed highlighted his absence.  I was not used to carrying the heavy stuff on my own, and when I could not, I had to find help.  Then there were more heavy things.  Things not as practical, like setting up gas and power in my first home and figuring out where to go with a broken heart when the guy that was supposed to always be steady was gone.  What I’ve learned is that life doesn’t deal you any fewer heavy things despite not having the resources to carry them.  And watching everyone else’s dad carry their heavy things still causes a burning pain in my chest.

Dads, with all that, you can enter into the heavy things with your daughters.  Just the physical presence of a biological father in a girls’ life is proven to delay the onset of her first period.  Show up.  Show up and show her who God is.  Show her how boys should value her.  Show her just how valuable she is.

Youth workers, don’t overlook the deep wounds behind many of the coping mechanisms girls employ when carrying these heavy things alone.  It’s easy to address behavior.  It’s time consuming to enter into wounds.  With others in those heavy things with them, girls can find healing, worth, and eventually, their Heavenly Father.   

Posted by John Perritt at 4:00 AM