Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Uncharted Territory of a Teen Daughter's Heart

For those of you who are fathers of teenage or soon-to-be-teen girls, Valentine's Day might make you a bit nervous. Your daughter's interest in boys, or more likely boys' interest in your daughter, might seem a bit scary to you. You want nothing but the best for your little girl, but you may not know how to navigate this uncharted territory.

As a daughter, let me encourage you to not back away from being involved in this part of your daughter’s life. She needs you, even if she doesn’t act like it. Take it from someone who is now glad her dad didn’t back away when the tricky stuff of teen relationships surfaced for the first time.

Talking to my dad about boys was the last thing I wanted to do as a fifteen-year-old. I thought my parents wouldn't understand or would freak out and tell me I was too young to be thinking about boys. Learning to be transparent with my parents about guys was a process and my dad gets a lot of credit for patiently helping me build a stronger relationship with him in this arena.

Three things my dad said during that phase of my life stuck with me to this day and helped me realize that my parents had my best interest in mind when it came to relationships.

In one of the first conversations I had with my dad about a guy I had a crush on, my dad told me, “Renae, your significance is not based on what a guy thinks about you or what your friends think about you. You are significant to your family and to the Lord and that is more important.” I knew that of course, but hearing my dad say that meant a lot and built my sense of self-worth.

As a sixteen-year-old, I hid from my parents a correspondence I had begun with a guy friend (okay, he was more than a friend). My attempts at secrecy failed. Lesson learned: parents find things out. In a rather difficult conversation with my parents, my dad said, “I want to be the guardian of your heart, Renae. But I can’t do that unless I know what’s going on in your life, and I can’t know that unless you talk to me!” My dad’s willingness to challenge me like that helped me realize that he wanted to protect me from unnecessary heartache at a young age and that he would be my best guide in relationships with guys. But, I had to let him do so by sharing with him what was going on in my life.

As my parents and I worked through these situations, they didn’t always handle things in the best possible way, but their motive was always to do what was best for me. “We’re figuring this out as we go, Renae. If I’ve ever done something wrong for the right reason, this was it.” My dad asked me to be patient with them. In the end, we ultimately had the same goal – my success and happiness in life – and we’d get there in better shape if we were on the same team and had grace for each other’s mistakes.

It’s been ten years since those formative experiences. My parents and I are now navigating what our relationship looks like now that I am an independent adult. But those three lessons from my teen years stick with me: 1) My family loves me for who I am and my worth is not defined by other people. 2) Being open with my dad is a good thing. 3) It’s learning process for all of us and we need to have grace and understanding for each other.

So, Dads, if this Valentine’s Day your daughter brings home a little something from a secret admirer, take the opportunity to engage her and let her know you care about that part of her life. More importantly, make sure she knows through your words and actions that her dad loves her exactly as she is and will always work for what’s best for her.


  1. I desperately want this relationship with my three daughters.

  2. Fantastic advice.... because its specific. Too many times articles like these say; "have an open relationship with your daughter" or "improve the communication with your daughter". This article gives me 3 actual things to say. Thank you

  3. My kiddos are still young. However I have threr nieces who are 20, 15, and 13 I just got a message today from the oldest "ssying you are the best dad my girls could evef have" that means tons to me. I remember times when my niece and I were yelling at each other because we both wanted what was right for her. She was about 14 when these things really got heated. I always tried to be calm and firm but things sometimes didn't work out. I have always pointed out that Christ is king and we should seek him first. However, I am human and I fail. I am very proud of her, she is going to Arkansas State University wanting to be a physical therapist. I just hope I will do better communicating with my girls. Remember God is sovereign and if we seek him first, your relationships will be the best they can be.

  4. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, everyone!

    @Anonymous (1st post) - I hope that you're able to build a closer relationship with your three girls. Be patient - it takes time to open up sometimes and they may rebuff your efforts, but stick with your girls for the long haul!

    @Anonymous (2nd post) - I'm glad my experience was helpful!

    @ash1977 - NFI calls what you're doing to step into your nieces' lives being a "Double Duty Dad." (www.fatherhood.org/doubledutydad) It's wonderful that you are able to be a father figure to your nieces! It sounds like your oldest niece is on a great track now, and I'm sure your experiences with them have given you some great learning opportunities for when your own daughters enter their teen years.


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