"One of the greatest gifts a father can present his daughter is to be approachable."---Norman Wright
Adult children should not feel rejection but support. The key word is availability.
"The best gift a father can give his departing daughter is his support and belief in her."---Norman Wright
"Your father is still influencing your life today--probably more than you realize." writes Norman Wright in Always Daddy's Girl. Wright's book is written primarily for grown daughters to help them understand and learn from their childhood experiences with dad, yet he also has much to say to midlife fathers. Following are his suggestions for those fathers whose daughters (and sons) are now out of the home.
A time to listen
Wright says that adult children don't need our advice as much as they do our ear. When they approach you about a matter, he recommends asking up-front whether they want suggestions or just a hearing. For dads used to giving advice such is not easy, and Wright is sympathetic. "I admit that just listening wasn't always the easiest thing for me to do," he says.
Before dads can become good listeners, their children must feel free to come to them in the first place. Thus, "one of the greatest gifts a father can present his daughter is to be approachable," says Wright. Wright defines approachability as tenderness and sensitivity to hurt feelings. "This father listens not only with his ears, but with his eyes and his heart as well," explains Wright.
A time to let go.
"When daughters become adults, some fathers know how to let them go, but others continue to hang on," says Wright. "It is vital for his daughter's development that a father encourage her transition into the career world and accept her departure from the home." Sometimes fathers thwart their adult children's independence by not encouraging them to experiment and find their own solutions to problems. Wright says this causes "learned helplessness," a trait "which some fathers teach and reinforce in their daughters by rescuing them from problem situations."
A time to be supportive
While fathers can be too involved, they can also be too uninvolved. Wright cautions fathers not to send the wrong message in attempts at letting go. Adult children should not feel rejection but support. The key word is availability. "The adult daughter has the option--no longer the responsibility--to draw upon her father as a resource," says Wright.
When fathers think of supporting adult children, we often think of money for education or a down payment on a home. However, Wright says that the best gifts fathers give their adult daughters are not monetary. "The best gift a father can give his departing daughter is his support and belief in her--belief which will encourage her to develop to her fullest potential as a person and as a woman."
A time to be friends.
Wright's book has hit on something which may be the greatest reward to midlife parenting. For while fathers will lose adult children as dependent recipients of our care, we gain them as independent and mutual care-givers. In short, they become our adult friends.
As I think about what I enjoy most about being a midlife dad, this is what comes to mind. I'm convinced that good friendships are the best gift one can give a midlifer. And today five of my very best friendships are with my newly adult kids.
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