A father’s role in his daughter’s life is often underestimated. The lifelong impact of having an absentee father, or of losing one’s father so suddenly in childhood, often has consequences on subsequent relationships that a young girl or woman has later on in life.
A father’s presence (or absence) in his daughter’s life will affect how she will relate to all men who come after him. In “The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship,” author Linda Schierse Leonard says that for many girls and women, the root of their injury stems from a damaged relationship with their father.
“If the father is not there for the daughter in a committed way while she is growing up,” Leonard writes, “she may lose confidence in herself, and a wound may occur.”
In such cases, often the young girl grows up into a woman seeking parts of her father in the relationships she chooses to have. When disappointment or disillusion sets in, or the young girl finally begins to heal from the deep wound of having an absent father, that is when trouble sets in.
The wounding is often referred to as being in a state of “daddy hunger,” which is very real and quite damaging if not addressed early on, because it results in a lack of self-esteem and trust issues, and could possibly lead to a string of relationships that will bring only heartbreak and sadness.
It is important for every child to have equal access to both parents whenever a breakup takes place. No matter what the differences might have been between the previously warring spouses, those need to be set aside in the best interest of the children.
Avoid the wounding
A recent article by social work and divorce specialist Terry Gaspard suggests several ways by which mothers can help their daughters avoid the wounding that can result from daddy hunger.
1. Recognize that your ex is your children’s parent and deserves respect for that reason alone. If your children hear you make negative comments about your ex, it can have a detrimental impact on them.
2. Showing cooperation and polite behavior with your ex sets a positive tone for co-parenting.
3. Do your best not to hold on to past grievances. You can help your daughter adjust to postseparation or annulment life by providing loving encouragement for her to bond with her dad. When children are confident of the love of both their parents, they will adapt more easily to the new setup.
4. Keeping your differences with your ex away from your children will open up opportunities to move beyond the separation in the years to come.
5. Reassure your daughter that she has two parents who love her by saying something like, “Even though mom and dad aren’t married anymore, we both love you and are good parents.”
In a war, no one wins, and everyone gets hurt in one way or another. The best way to minimize collateral damage is to provide your children, whether sons and daughters, with equal access to their father.
Fathers, in turn, need to realize the important roles they play in their child’s development. It’s not enough to just provide a check each month; the greater returns result from time and love invested in the children’s hearts and minds.