Fathers and Daughters: An Essential Bond After Divorce

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW 

The relationship a daughter has with her father is one that has a profound impact on her life. The breakup of a family often changes the dynamic of the father-daughter relationship and it can be a challenge to stay connected. Research has shown that fathers play an important role in the lives of their daughters but that this relationship is the one that changes the most after divorce.

There’s no denying that a woman’s relationship with her father is one of the most crucial in her life. The quality of that connection – good, damaged, or otherwise – powerfully impacts dads and daughters in a multiple of ways.  A father’s effect on his daughter’s psychological well-being and identity is far-reaching. A daughter’s sense of self, for instance, is often connected to how her father views her. A girl stands a better chance of becoming a self-confident woman if she has a close bond with her father.

While divorce can be problematic for all children, it poses unique challenges for girls, in part due to a tendency they have to crave emotional closeness more than boys do. She may feel that if her family is broken, she is broken. Due to a delayed reaction to divorce or a “Sleeper Effect,” a girl might go undercover, and develop an increased sensitivity to loss that may go unnoticed.

Why is the father-daughter relationship so vulnerable to disruption after a parents’ divorce?  Dr. Linda Nielson, a nationally recognized expert on father-daughter relationships, posits that that while most daughters of divorce are well adjusted several years after their parents’ divorce, many have damaged relationships with their fathers. Unfortunately, if the wound is severe, a girl may grow into adulthood with low self-esteem and trust issues.

Dr. Nielson found that girls tend to spend more time with their mothers (and less time with their dad) after their parents’ divorce. In her extensive research, Dr. Nielson found that only 10 to 15 percent of fathers get to enjoy the benefits of joint custody after the family splits.

My research for Daughters of Divorce spanned over three years and was comprised of 326 interviews of young women who reflected upon their parents’ divorce. The most common themes that emerged from these interviews were trust issues and a wound in the father-daughter relationship. My previous study published in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage concluded that lack of access to both parents and high conflict between them contributed to low self-esteem in young women raised in divorced homes. Most of the young women that I interviewed expressed a strong desire to improve their communication with their fathers yet lacked the tools to be able to pull this off.

Certainly a strong father-daughter connection is a challenge when it comes to post-divorce relationships. In a recent episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass Bishop T.D. Jakes concludes “It’s not a lack of love that stops an estranged father from reconnecting with his child – it’s the fear of rejection.” Bishop Jakes recommends that every father needs to “court” his child and discover his or her world in order to reconnect.

In his recent book Always Dad, Paul Mandelstein, advises divorced dads to find ways to play a crucial role in their daughter’s life. He suggests that divorced parents call a truce with their ex-spouse – to put an end to active fighting and to collaborate. The father-daughter connection, even several years after a family dissolves, is heavily influenced by consistency in contact and the quality of the relationship.

Daughters who have a strong relationship with their father are more likely to be self-confident and mature – possessing a purpose in their lives. A daughter’s relationship with her father is the first one that teaches her how she should be treated by a man. But Dads often lose touch with their daughters after a family splits up and they don’t always know how to reconnect. I know firsthand about this loss because I experienced it with my own father and fortunately was able to heal the rupture in our relationship.

Why is the father-daughter bond so vulnerable to disruption after divorce?

  • Girls tend to spend more time with their moms after divorce (and less time with their dads).
  • During early adolescence, a girl tends to feel distant from her dad and she may resent her stepmom or his girlfriend. Meanwhile, she may tend to have an intense, complicated relationship with her mom (confidant, too close, lots of conflict and love).
  • Mothers and stepmoms don’t always understand the importance of the father-daughter bond so they may not encourage it.
  • Dads don’t always know how to connect with their daughters around activities that are mutually satisfying so they start spending less time together.
  • If the father-daughter bond is severely damaged it can cause daughters to have trust and intimacy issues in adult relationships. It may push them to pick romantic partners who are all wrong for them because they set low standards.

The truth is that girls go through many changes during adolescence and at this pivotal time, they may become more distant from their dads. There is also more tension between mothers and daughters – even in intact families.  Divorce often intensifies issues between family members. The good news is that it’s not too late for fathers and daughters to connect.

10 Tips for fathers with daughters of all ages:

  • Express loving feelings: Hugs, praise, and suggesting activities are ways to do this.
  • Connect through notes: Texts, emails, or a postcard or letter if you are away.
  • Idle chats: Ask her questions or exchange small talk while you are driving in the car,  helping her with homework, cooking, or a doing a project together (puzzle, decorate her room).
  • Special dates: For younger daughters, a visit to the zoo or the park are possible ways to connect and relax together. Throw in a picnic or ice cream cone too! For teenage or young adult daughters: Take her to lunch, the gym, or a wonderful movie – ask her for ideas!
  • Include her in vacation plans: Ask her where she wants to go (with limits).
  • Find ways to help her to build self-esteem such as encouraging her to develop interests and recognizing her strengths. It’s okay for her to abandon these interests when she decides to check new ones out. Try to be accepting of her need for independence as she reaches adolescence. She still needs your approval but requires a little space to explore and grow.
  • Encourage her to spend close to equal time with both parents. Be flexible – especially as she reaches adolescence and may need more time for friends, school, jobs, and extracurricular activities.
  • Be sure not to bad-mouth her mother – even if she complains about her. For instance, mothers and daughters can experience more tension during adolescence and you can serve as a buffer. Keep in mind that her mother is still her model and so saying negative things about your ex-spouse will hurt your daughter and may spark a negative reaction.
  • Attempt to help her repair any father-daughter wounds. If your relationship has been damaged and she doesn’t want to connect, you may want to seek professional help from a divorce coach or therapist.
  • Be patient and persistent in showing your daughter you want to spend time with her. It’s never too late to develop a stronger father-daughter bond or to reconnect while you’re still alive! Don’t let your fear of rejection of the past prevent you from enjoying a positive bond with your daughter.

10 Tips for daughters of all ages:  

  • Be honest about your relationship with your father and any wounds that exist.
  • Let go of self-blame and forgive yourself (for whatever you told yourself) and your dad.
  • Give up the dream of a perfect connection with your father.
  • Look at ways you may have accepted relationships that were not healthy for you to fill the void your dad left (dating unavailable men or ones who are all wrong for you).
  • Examine your relationship with your dad and attempt to reconnect if there have been any wounds. He may be able to help you be your best self.
  • Be patient and have realistic expectations.  After all, it may take time to reconnect if your relationship is damaged or distant.
  • Invest your time in something that interests your dad – such as attending a sporting or work event with him if you have the opportunity.
  • Express your needs clearly and calmly. This could be verbally, a letter, or release (“I release you from not being more active in my life, even if I don’t know why or it hurts”). You may decide not to share your letter with your father, but this step can still be therapeutic.
  • Accept that people usually do the best they can and attempt to be more understanding of your father and his situation.
  • You may want to seek professional help to deal with your wound with your father if your relationship doesn’t seem to be improving.

If fathers can remain an integral part of their daughter’s life after divorce, a loving bond will help them get through rough patches in life. Dr. Peggy Drexler, author of Our Fathers, Ourselves writes, “Likewise, even the most troubled, overwrought , baggage-laden relationship is not without hope – if not of reconciliation, then at least of the daughter finding a new way of seeing her father that might help her to make sense of the forces that shaped him and his actions.” In most cases, It’s not too last to connect with your father or your daughter, even if you haven’t done so in some time.  

The information contained in this blog also applies to many father-daughter relationships when the parents are unwed. All daughters benefit from a close bond with their father. It is never too late to heal fractured relationships and for love and forgiveness. Fathers can be an integral part of their daughters lives even if they live apart or have had limited contact in the past.

For more suggestions check out our bi-monthly enewsletter which will be sent to your email address – sign-up at the end of this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!  

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

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81 Responses to “Fathers and Daughters: An Essential Bond After Divorce”

  1. Lisa says:

    Absolutely remarkable; this article may have just provided me with the key to my existential salvation. I have never had the inclination to say that before, and at 31 years of seeking thus far, all I can say is I gave up at least 20 years ago (and in truth, that’s likely a modest guess as I’m sure it was between 20-25 years ago) on the possibility of a resolution, on the concept of contentment, and on the love spectrum almost in entirety. (Exception being the unconditionally loving relationships adults may share with animals and/or children.)

    So this is exciting, and I humbly thank you.

    • Terry says:

      Lisa, You are welcome and I’m glad the article helped you!Keep checking our posts because I tend to write a lot on this topic. I’ve also written several articles for Huffington Post Divorce so you might enjoy those. Just type in my name – Terry Gaspard – to the goggle search optin box and they will come up! Regards, Terry

      • nina says:

        Hi terry i have some difficult questions about the absent father who wants to rekindle his bond with his daughter id love to get more in depth please im in dire need of help.

        • Terry says:

          Hello,

          You can contact me by selecting my telephone coaching page on my website. I do provide a 20 minute free consult and then coaching if needed after that for a reasonable fee. I am available Tuesday through Thursday, December 2-4th, with an appointment. I am taking time-out for holiday this week.

          Regards,
          Terry

  2. Mark says:

    Great article! Thanks for the tips to fathers! That helps as I am dumbfounded as to how to “fix” this broken bond. My greatest fear is that my daughter will grow up with the same relationship issues, incapable of trusting a partner because of what she experienced at home growing up.

    • Terry says:

      Mark, I’m glad you liked my article! Keep in touch because we are publishing a book about daughters of divorce that you might find useful in understanding your daughter. Best, Terry

  3. Slavic says:

    Dear Terry, I just came across your article and it helped me a lot. My wife and I will probably divorce this June or July. We are separated for the last ten months. I have two daughters, ages eight and twelve. I believe my daughters and I have a strong connection and friendship with one another. However, my eldest shares everything with me except her feelings. I really want to preserve our close relationships and remain open and available to them. How I can protect them in this situation and remain calm. I see them everyday right now but it will change soon. Should I continue with as many activities we are used to do together as possible or I should develop new ones? Thank you

    • Terry says:

      Hello, Sorry for the delay. I was on vacation for about a week. Your should keep your schedule with your daughters as consistent as usual and not make any big changes during a divorce. If they are spending the night with you, make sure that their bedtimes are regular and avoid the tendency to give them too many treats or extra things to compensate for lack of time. The main thing that they need from you is affection, consistency, and reassurance that you will be there for them. Hanging out and giving them the opportunity to talk is great but keep in mind that girls often have a delayed reaction to separation and divorce and may not share their feelings right away. Keep in touch and look for my articles on Huffington Post Divorce about dads and daughters. If you google my name on their home page you with find several articles that you might be interested in. Regards, Terry Gaspard

      • Slavic says:

        Hi Terry, thank you sooooo much for your encouraging and helpful words. I have another question. Is it wise to ask my children’s opinion in selecting a new place for me to move into? Can I take them with me and ask them if they like it or not? Thanks. Slavic

        • Terry says:

          Hello, I believe that it’s a good idea to show them your options for a new place and get their feedback. However, let them know that you will make the final decision. But asking for their input about sleeping arrangements, locations, etc. will help them to feel included. Hopefully, your new place is in a fairly convenient location to their school, mother’s house, etc. The older your children are, the more important it is to get their feedback. Regards, Terry

  4. erika says:

    Reading this artical kindof helped me explain to my father that havimg a father daughter relationship changes alot but he doesnt care about the fact that i was his first born nor his only daughter

    • Terry says:

      Hello, I am sorry that you don’t have a strong connection with your dad. Sometimes fathers disappear or don’t value the bond with their daughters as much as they should after divorce. Things may change in time (look over my tips) but if they don’t, try not to blame yourself. You can still move on and have meaningful relationships in your life. Regards, Terry

  5. Richard says:

    Dear Terry,

    How do you address this situation when Mom at the daughter’s home is ‘hell-bent’ on promoting this dis-bond due to Mom’s own inability to move on and to continually harbor resentment and anger? Parental Alienation comes to mind on this.

    Thanky you,
    Richard

    • Terry says:

      Hello Richard,

      I’m not an expert on parental alienation but you can google it an you will find resources. However, I’m an expert on divorce and daughters of divorce and I recommend that you continue to be consistent with you daughter and your actions with make a difference. Children have a way of sensing the truth and if you maintain a bond with her throughout her life, she will come to her own conclusions. Most daughters crave a strong connection with their dads and this will come back even if it is temporary lost (later in a daughter’s life).

      Please check out my other blogs (especially Father’s Day one) and stay in touch!

      Regards,
      Terry

  6. Rick says:

    Hello, I am in the process of getting a divorce. I have 3 daughters, 18, 16, and 11. Due to some underlying issues, I may have to move out of town after the divorce. We live in an area that is far removed from the rest of the country. I will probably be moving back to Oklahoma to be near my family(Mom, brother, aunts and uncles and cousins). We currently live in Alaska. Its complicated.

    I have spoken to my oldest and my youngest about the possibility of me moving. It is a strong possibility that I will need to move. How can a explain to my girls that this will be the best thing overall, even though it will be heart wrenching for all of us? My oldest did not like it but she said she would love me no matter what. My youngest did not really have a reaction. She will probably have a delayed one, I’m sure.

    • Terry says:

      Hi Rick,

      First of all, I commend you for talking to your daughters – it takes courage but is an important step. Is there a reason why you didn’t speak to your sixteen year old daughter? If possible, I would do so soon- even if you write her a letter.

      It’s key that you give them facts but don’t say too much about their mother or the reasons why you are splitting. Simply saying something like “I love you and I’m sorry things didn’t work out between your mom and I” is good enough. Then be prepared by a delayed reaction and be receptive to follow-up questions and emotions. You are smart to know that girls are often hit hard by stressful family events (harder than boys)and it’s common for them to have a delayed reaction.

      Lastly, I would assure them that you will be in touch with regular phone contact, letters, and see them in person as much as possible. Of course follow-up is key as well as consistency. Children and teenagers don’t have any control over divorce and girls are more negatively impacted by parental conflict before and after divorce due to their brain development and socialization. So strive to be amicable with your soon to be ex and don’t bad-mouth her in any way.

      Regards,
      Terry

  7. Brent says:

    My wife divorced me 8 years ago, when my daughters were 5 & 2 years old. It became obvious that she had been cheating, as she married a man she works with shortly after our divorce was final, yet she put all of the blame for the divorce on me (probably because it makes her feel less guilty for what she did to our family). My ex and her family have continued to bad mouth me, while i have taken the high road, and I feel like the bond with my daughters is weakening because of this. Is there a good way to defend myself and tell my side of the story without hurting my girls? I have fears of saying the wrong things to my daughters in many situations, and I think the fear keeps.me from saying what i should at times. My daughters rarely talk to me, even ignore most of my text messages, and it seems that they only see me if they are told they have to by their mother. How can I open up the communication and start repairing the relationships?

    Another issue, equally important, is that it is very possible that my 10 year old daughter is not my biological child, and that her “stepfather” is her actual biological father. This thought keeps burning in the back of my mind, and it has probably had a negative effect on our relationship. I feel like this needs to be resolved sooner than later, but how can I do this without alerting my daughter of my doubts?

    Thanks,
    Brent

    • Terry says:

      Hi Brent,

      Thanks for writing about your situation. I can share my general thoughts but can not give you advise over the internet. If I were you, I would seek counseling for support and advice since your situation is very involved and complicated.

      I would not say anything negative to your daughters about their mother. They don’t need to hear your side of the story – they are children and had no control over the divorce. But what they do need is a loving, consistent dad. I would continue to try to contact them (follow tips in my blog) and hopefully over time they will be receptive. Kids have a amazing way of seeing truth and responding to love if it is unwavering and unconditional. Girls often have a delayed response to divorce a “Sleeper Effect” so the impact of your divorce may not have fully hit them yet. Girls do better after divorce when they have a sister and a close relationship with both parents. Hopefully this will come in time.

      Best,

      Terry

  8. zezo says:

    My father hav rejected me thrice and am his biological daughter.he doesnt care about us in any way.iv tried my best but his not coperating.sometimes feel like men are so cruel n heartless my mum sacrifices alot jst for us.he is wealthy bt y leave us to suffer ?? Can’t continue with my studies due to fees n he’s not aware committed to his new family.I hate men.tel me wats right to do.

    • Terry says:

      Hello, it sounds like counseling would help you process the loss. I’m very sorry to hear that your situation has become so dire. If you haven’t tried writing your dad a letter, I would try doing so. Express your feeling honestly without blame. Don’t give up on all men – there are many wonderful ones in the world.
      Regards, Terry

  9. Emily says:

    Terry, thank you so much for your article. My parents divorced when I was 20 and I’m now 35. My dad is the “passive” father remarried to a strong woman you describe to a “T”, and I have struggled with his ever increasing distance since that time. On the rare occasion I see him..usually initiated by me, he does seem happy to see myself and my family and is appreciative when I call, but in 15 years has only reached out to me a handful of times. He is very active in my step-sisters life (also my age) because his wife makes a great deal of effort (as she should!) to stay in her daughters life and he follows along. I have to say, even as an adult this obvious bias towards his new family is heartbreaking to me. For a long time, I have never requested anything from him or told him my feelings because I was afraid he would be angry or feel bad and have even less contact with me. But keeping the pain to myself just hurts more. Your article is the first I have found that actually has some suggestions for what they left behind daughter can do. I think I’ll start by asking him to actually call me occasionally. The worst that will happen is he won’t and I won’t be any worse off and I can move on. Anyway, thanks for your oughts on this subject.

    • Terry says:

      Hi Emily, I’m glad that my article is helpful to you and I agree that making a request for him to stay in touch is a good idea. You can’t control his response but requesting is an action that you can control.Passive dads often need their daughters to be more assertive – this was true of my own father and it helped me a lot when I reached out to him. I wrote a chapter in our book about this called “Daddy Hunger” and will keep you posted on this site about it’s publication – it’s in the works! Please stay in touch!
      All my best,
      Terry

  10. Kristin says:

    Terry,
    What if the father is an alcoholic and does stupid things?

    • Terry says:

      Hi Kristin, Each situation is different and you have to weigh how negative your dad’s impact is on you.I would never recommend that any daughter allow herself to be emotionally or physically abused. That being said, if you can set boundaries and have limited contact – it might be beneficial to keep the door open in hopes that he will get treatment. But be careful to take care of yourself and if the relationship is damaging to you, by all means you may need to cut off contact – at least for awhile. Regards, Terry

  11. Carrie Landschoot says:

    Hello,
    My 5 year olds father is very much a part of our daughters life. He picks her up from school at 4 and drops her off to me at 630 during the week and has her every other weekend. She speaks pretty highly of him.
    I left him because of the way he acted and spoke to me when he drank.
    How can I answer her questions to me about my feelings for him.. how can I be honest with her?

    • Terry says:

      Hello Carrie, I would say something like”Daddy and mommy didn’t get along but we both love you.” However, if you fear that he may drink alcohol when he is with her, you should see a counselor who specializes in substance abuse and get support for that issue. Of course, you need to trust that your daughter is safe in his care – especially driving in his car. Given you are confident your ex isn’t drinking while caring for your daughter, most children her age can understand a simple message and don’t benefit from details. When she is an older adolescent or young adult, she will probably ask more questions and you can give her more information. Regards, Terry

  12. Michael says:

    Terry,
    The article you have written on father/daughter bond has been extremely helpful with my struggle in life. I have been divorced for a year now and my daughter is 5 years old living with her mother. I have visitation every other weekend and one night out to dinner every week with my daughter. I have the freedom to walk my daughter to school or pick her up from school, but the mother doesn’t allow this to happen with the response that it is confusing to our child. I explain to our daughter that you must respect your mother’s wishes at all times. I have taken the high road throughout this process, but what do you say to a child at this age and are there any divorced father groups in NYC for which might help me through the many struggles I endure daily? I adore our little girl with my heart and soul.

    • Terry says:

      Hello,
      I would keep telling your daughter you love her and be consistent with your words and actions. In time, your bond will grow and she will trust you and learn to trust other males when she is older. It’s not helpful to give a young child too much information. When she is an older adolescent or young adult she will ask you more questions and you can say a bit more – but be careful not to say anything negative about her mother who is her role model for being a female.
      It sounds like you are doing a great job. I don’t live in the New York area so I advise you do a google search and contact local family service agencies for referrals for a father’s group.
      Regards, Terry

    • Sarah says:

      You are doing a great job. Please just don’t give up on your daughter, even when things get tough. I left a comment below if you need to show your wife proof that not having a father in your life is a recipe for terrible emotional pain. I’d have given anything for my dad to see me even once a month. One day your daughter will see the truth and she will know that you endured such a hard situation to keep that bond. It will mean a lot to her.

  13. Charles Kalman says:

    Please keep me updated with all of your email blasts.

    • Terry says:

      Hello, Sure! I recommend that you sign up for our bi-weekly enewsletter – which you can easily do by filling in the box at the end of each blog.
      You can also check us out on Facebook at movingpastdivorce. Regards, Terry

  14. Lisa says:

    Hi,
    My husband and I are both parents of teens and in our second marriage.
    While my stepson has practically moved in with us and our boys get on fine, I’ve often been dismayed by my husband’so behaviour over the past 5 years regarding his daughter. He refuses to listen to me or our couple counselor and consistently treats her emotionally as his companion. I’ve often regretted marrying him as I can’t see myself being intimate with a man who will literally leave the marriage bed to spend a late night with his visiting teen daughter. She is a lovely talented girl who dates seriously unsuitable boys and he won’t see the connection. He ruined his first marriage with an affair, and now she sees how easily he leaves his second wife in the lurch. Wives don’t matter, ego boosters do.
    How can I get through to him that husbands and wives are teams, responsible for their happiness and their kids well being. But how can that work when the lines get blurred?
    Best wishes, Lisa

    • Terry says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I would suggest that you accept your husband and ask him for one or two things that would improve your bond (such as spending one or two nights a week together). You can work on improving your relationship and yet not condone his behavior. But I don’t think focusing on his relationship with his daughter – when he doesn’t see it as a problem – will help your love grow. It sounds like he has not been receptive to a counselor and doesn’t really want to change. In my experience, people only change when they are ready to and he doesn’t indicate that there is a problem. But if you focus on acceptance and improving your relationship with him, things may improve over time.

      Regards,
      Terry

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks Terry,
        While my husband is away on business this week, I’ve taken it upon myself to totally reevaluate our relationship. I’ve broken up with him, virtually so to speak, and am now reassessing the new boundaries, rules of our marriage. Once he gets back we will talk further.
        Thank you for the specific advice on acceptance of his refusal to change. I’ve given it a lot of thought and can’t ignore and carry on as usual. But I am willing to readjust and will not seek a divorce as long as he aknowledges my feelings and is prepared to start again.
        I appreciate the lack of drama involved as I’m not a confrontational type.
        Best regards, Lisa

        • Terry says:

          Hi Lisa,
          I’m glad that you found my response helpful and I hope you continue to visit our site. We do not provide counseling on this site but tips that can help people restore their faith in love and improve their feelings of self-worth.
          Best, Terry

  15. RBC says:

    Hi Terry,
    Thank you for this article. My parents divorced when I was 5. She remarried when I was 6 and I had a great relationship with my stepdad. Somewhere in the mess of my mother and father, she created such strife between them that he and I stopped communicating after a few years. She constantly bad mouthed him and told me that he didn’t want me but that he was going to take her to court for custody of me. So she had me write him a letter to tell him I didn’t want to be with him anymore and shortly thereafter we stopped talking. Now jump ahead 32 years…I found my dad through the internet and reconnected. Only to find out that she lied about everything and played us against each other. She recently disappeared out of my life simply because I wouldn’t “conform” to her ways. She is a “my way or the highway” type of person. My dad and I have had a wonderful reunion but many many tears and many different emotions. We’ve been talking know for 8 months. There has been good stress and bad stress and unfortunately it has taken a told on my health. My dad is extremely brilliant, but to the point he intellectualizes everything. I still have a broken heart and don’t understand why he didn’t try to find me. I’ve tried to be accepting of him but sometimes I just get so overwhelmed with emotion that instead of him engaging in conversation, he becomes distant and doesn’t talk to me for days because he is non confrontational. I don’t know what else to do and we live on opposite ends of the country which makes things that much harder. My dad has a beautiful wife that is completely in my corner and thinks the reason I am “emotionally stuck” is because I have questions of my Dad and he thinks I should just move forward…but I can’t because there is a hole in me from 32 years of not having my dad in my life. She is concerned about our relationship because she thinks he is too stubborn and she knows I need answers. I’m not even sure what I am asking of you as I never post on websites to seek advice. I guess my heart just hurts so bad, I don’t know what to do. Thank you in advance for reading and responding.

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      I can’t provide a long response in this format but appreciate your thoughts and journey. It can take a long time to heal a father-daughter wound so be gentle with yourself! Therapy can help as well as keeping a journal and writing. Our book “Daughters of Divorce” will be out in 2015.

      Regards,

      Terry

      • RBC says:

        Thank you Terry. I appreciate your reply. My husband is actually a counselor and has strongly encouraged me to get a journal also :-) I’ve just been caught in a sea of emotion and haven’t done it. Guess I better start when I have 2 counselors saying the same thing. I look forward to getting your book in 2015. Thank you again for the reply!!!!

  16. Damien says:

    Divorced after 40 years of marriage, due to husband’s (my singular affair.) Two married daughters in their 30’s have broken all contact with me. Son, single late 20’s, virtually no change in our relationship. I struggle every day with the loss of my very close relationship with my daughters. I did not want to divorce, went to counseling, etc. (wife would not go) but she filed anyway.
    Advice to re-connect with my children???

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      Sorry to hear about your estrangement with your daughters. I highly recommend a book by Dr. Joshua Coleman “When Parents Hurt” about this topic. He offers many tips for parents in your situation. He also offers free and low-cost seminars. He is a compassionate therapist who has helped so many parents and his website is http://www.DrJoshuaColeman.com and his phone # is 510 547-6500. His teleseminars are available over the internet.

      Regards,

      Terry

  17. Sarah says:

    Low self-esteem and trust issues? You described me to a T. I’ve put on 150 lbs and have hated myself and put myself down more than even an enemy would…and I think now I know why.

    My parents divorced when I was just a toddler. My dad took my brothers and my mom took me. Both he and my mother remarried at roughly the same time, and my mom figured my stepdad could step up to the plate, as my father had just had another son. Around the age of 7-8, he stopped picking me up and my stepmother’s new son took my place.

    I’m now 29 and I’ve literally only said 2 words to him at a family function over the last 20 years. He has not reached out to me once and I fear he doesn’t care at all about me. I even heard once that he thought I may not be his child because I don’t look much like him. I begged my mom to tell my who my real father was if that was the case, because it would be a step up from no father at all.

    I’m writing him a letter as an olive branch and extending my love and forgiveness because I’m in the process of healing all aspects of my life – the weight, my PCOS resulting from it, etc. But I know I can’t heal without addressing this. I’ve been putting it off for so long.

    Any dads reading this, please do whatever it takes to see your daughters, even if once a month. Don’t let the years pass by and always say you love her or at least show it in some way. There’s nothing worse than thinking your dad just doesn’t care about you at all. Every Father’s Day is a torture, the father-daughter dances make you cry, and you feel a stab in your heart when you see a daughter and her dad smiling together…

    • Terry says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us and I hope that your healing continues to progress.Your comments can help so many fathers and daughters and I appreciate your courage and determination.

      Best Regards,
      Terry

  18. Sue says:

    Very good article, thank you.
    I am struggling as I recently found out my father has been sleeping with other women besides my mother for the past 3 years – I am 33 years old now. I love my father dearly, however I cannot cope with the damage he has caused my mother and our family. He now states that he wants to work things out with my mother, however I am aware that he is still chatting with these women online. I am considering cutting him out of my life due to the ongoing pain he is causing me. I feel that I am grieving for the father I knew and is now dead, now I am just left with a man who looks like him but I cannot even relate to because of what he has done. Can you recommend any resources that are relevant for adult children going through this crisis? I’m devastated.
    Thank you.

    • Terry says:

      Hello Sue,

      Thanks for reading my blog and for your positive feedback. Here are the names of two books that may help you:

      1. The Unavailable Father: Seven Ways Women Can Understand, heal, and Cope With a Broken Father-Daughter Relationship. by Sarah Simms Rosenthal, PhD
      2. The Wounded Woman. Linda Schierse Leonard

      Best Regards, Terry

  19. Jay says:

    I have been married almost ten years and am a father to two daughters (9 and 5). About 10 months ago, my ex suddenly announced that she wanted to separate. There was no infidelity on either of our parts. We did grow apart and spent too much time focusing on our children and not enough on our life as a couple. Still I was surprised that she wanted to separate and was unwilling to even try counseling. I think she feels a bit of remorse at stringing me along and not being honest and our separation has not been overly contentious.

    Fortunately we cooperate and have the contours of a to be finalized agreement in place with us splitting time equally with our two children, that is joint legal and physical custody with the children’s time 50/50 with each of us.

    While so far my children seem reasonably well adjusted, I worry about a few things. First, about this delayed reaction to divorce, how can I recognize and try to respond when it comes up?.

    Second, this is such unchartered territory for me that I feel guilty about sabotaging my children’s lives. I’m constantly second guessing myself as a parent and I think part of it has to do with my guilt and feeling overwhelmed. I wonder if being divided between two households is all that healthy for children. How can I recognize if the stresses become too much for my children? For the most part though, my relationship with my children is good and reasonably stress free. Mercifully I have a very stable, secure job that pays reasonably well and have seen a therapist for my own well being.

    Third, while I try not to bad mouth my ex, I have two issues. First, at times my children perceive me saying something bad when I am really not. I’m just saying something utterly objective about something relatively meaningless like plastic versus real Christmas trees or canned versus frozen green beans, whole milk versus skim, etc. But I feel that a few times my kids have taken it the wrong way.

    Second, is it ever appropriate to mention at a much later age to grown children flaws in an ex? I know my ex has said that she is glad to to have weekends free so she can party which bothers me greatly. I don’t think she is grossly irresponsible and why I might have thought to myself this is a benefit it is obviously outweighed by others things. I was surprised she said it and honestly think a part of her is immature at sacrificing our marriage and children’s well being for more freedom on her part.

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      You ask many good questions but they cannot all be answered in this format. Fortunately, you are seeing a therapist who should be able to
      support and assist you in grieving the loss of the marriage. However, I will respond to a few things that I am an expert in.
      1. Be careful about what you say about your ex that your kids may see as negative and try to point out good things about her a such as: “We both love you but just couldn’t stay married” or “Your mom is a great mother.” I would never point out your ex’s flaws – your girls will find them out on their own. If you point them out, it will just make them angry at you and cause resentment later on.
      2. The “Sleeper Affect” is not always obvious but very common in girls. Signs of it are: sudden misplaced anger, withdrawal, picking inappropriate boyfriends, ultra rebelliousness or mood swings. Let your instincts be your guide but be sure to spend quality time with your girls weekly and keep your eyes wide open to these signs.
      3. Divorce is a painful process and can take a few years to recover from – especially for the person who is left. I recommend Bruce Fischer’s book “Rebuilding:When Your Relationship Ends.” My book “Daughters of Divorce” will be published in 2015 and may help you and your daughters in the years to come.

      Regards,

      Terry

  20. Jerry says:

    I feel very vulnerable by reaching out like this but i need to talk about it as i dont think i can contain my feelings anymore. My fiance and i have been together for 6 years now and have a beautiful 15 month old daughter. She is truly the best thing that has ever happened to me. The kind of joy i get from being around her is without equal. For about the last year and a half, there has been a growing resentment between myself and her mother, which seems to only grow worse by the day. It seems like my fiance has settled into the stay at home mom role, and is unwilling to any longer work towards bettering our lives. She spends around 8 hours a day on her kindle, often times with our child left in her pack n play ignored all because mommy needs to relax… Without going into too many details my significant other continues to let me down, whether its in parenting, her lack of attempting to better our lives, or the fact that we only have sex about once a month. I love my daughter more than anything, but i dont know how much longer i can go on letting her mom hold me back. I just dont know how i could live with myself if i left. Not being able to see my childs beautiful face every day when i come home from work would be unbearable. I just want things to be better but when i try and talk with my fiance, im usually met with anger and overly defensive statements. I can feel my child slowly slipping away from me as i know theres nothing i can do in the end. At this point im not sure that my relationship has any value to me any more other than to keep my daughter close. Thank you for reading this, it helps a little to be able to say this stuff.

    • Terry says:

      Hi J,
      Since your message is so personal, I didn’t approve it because it would go viral. I do recommend that you obtain personal counseling for such an important decision. My website is supportive and informational but not therapy.However, I do recommend that you take your time making this decision and not leave suddenly if you decide to separate from your wife. It is a very important decision and you are wise to seek help.

      Regards,

      Terry

  21. Jerry says:

    Thank you Terry for taking the time to read my comment. Also thank you for the sound advice. My fiance and I have talked about counseling a few times but we have never went through with it. Mainly because she had to go to counseling after her parents divorced, and she had a very negative experience with it, which has cause it to be a very touchy subject. In the end though it might be the only option we have left. Thank you again.

    • Terry says:

      Hi J-
      Best wishes with the counseling – it can be life-changing if your wife is willing to give it a try with a new person. She is older now and there are many, many great therapists. Ask for one who is a specialist in marriage and family issues. I would ask your physician for a referral but also word of mouth can be helpful.
      Best Regards,
      Terry

  22. Jim says:

    Hi Terry,

    Is it possible to create a close bond with my daughter from a distance. i am heartbroken, she lives in the country, my work opportunities are in the city. When my wife and I first split up I moved to the city for work. I was devastated and missed my little girl so much. We then agreed to co-parent 50/50 so I moved back to the country at great expense. My wife then pulled the rung from under the co-parenting idea and since then my daughter ‘suddenly’ hasn’t wanted to stay over any more. I see her only 1 day a week now. I have decided to move back to the city for a better life for myself but now feel bereft again, I feel like Im abandoning my daughter. I feel so caught – my work opportunities and friends and new girlfriend are in the city but my little girl is in the country 150 miles away. Im considering just staying in the country even though it means little work and no friends and leaving my girlfriend just to be near my daughter. Something inside tells me she needs me to be ‘there’ close by and to be more involved in day to day stuff like homework and to see her every weekend if I can even if its only during the day. My friends tell me Im crazy – they say I need to have a life myself too – that I need a career and a social life and not be isolated in the country. But I’m afraid of being like a ‘disneyland dad’ and only being a visitor not a dad, already I feel her connection with me closing, she doesn’t talk to me about her feelings anymore like she did. I wonder does she think Im abandoning her. I feel so caught – its a sophies choice do I live in the city and thrive myself and build a new life and only see her every second weekend, or do I live near her and downgrade careers and give up my social life, friends, girlfriend, career opportunities to be ‘there’ for my girl. Friends say unless I thrive and am happy myself I can’t give much to her. I wonder even if Im poor and a bit lonely but ‘there’ for her daily would it be better for her. My question is quantity versus quality I think. Question is Can I have a good father daughter relationship from a 150 mile distance?

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      The answer is yes, I believe that you can be a good long-distance dad if you are consistent and strive to maintain regular contact. Text messages, phone calls, emails, etc. all help. Be sure to include her in regular vacations and go to any special events that she has such as visiting her school, dance recitals, etc. That being said, your presence in her life is crucial to her self-esteem and will continue to be important as she achieves young adulthood. You didn’t mention her age, but she will need you even more during adolescence and young womanhood so don’t disappear even if she is busy with friends and activities. Ask your daughter what the best way to stay in touch is and make sure to do activities alone with her (without your girlfriend) even if she says it’s okay for her to come along. Counseling may be a good way to help you feel more confident about your decision if you are torn. This blog is meant to be supportive and informational but is not counseling.
      Best Regards, Terry

      • Jim says:

        Thanks Terry she’s 9. I ring her twice a week, I see once a week and I have her to stay either every second weekend or every third depending on work. Its always just her and me. I take her away for weekends too. Thanks for the advice re counseling I think you’re right – I feel like Im abandoning her even though Im not. I find it very hard not living with her or near her (second best) to the point I feel guilty now that Im creating my own new life and looking after myself. Freinds say I can’t martyr myself for her, that if Im a successful working man with a good income and a new life who’s happy but at a distance and can support her and do things with that its better than a broke and poor dad who’s local and can’t support her. I don’t know. Ive always believed that I have to put my child first regardless. Thanks for your advice.

        • Terry says:

          Hi,

          I’m glad that my response was helpful. I am writing a blog on this topic to be posted in the next month because it is a good and common concern that you have about being a good long-distance dad.

          Best Regards,

          Terry

  23. Manticore says:

    My wife demanded a divorce and we agreed right then that I would be the primary care giver to our daughter. It was the best decision I made. To heck with a “rewarding career” I want my daughter!

    I always tell her that I love her. I tell her that she is the absolutely most important part of my life. And I have nothing to apologize for because she is the most important. On a normal week I see her every day. A few times a year she goes on trips with her mom and that is fine.

    Her mom also sees her almost every day. I told her that her mom is vitally important to her just as I am. Kids need both parents and their love.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! It’s wonderful to know that you are so committed to your daughter’s well-being.
      Best Regards,
      Terry

  24. Malayna says:

    My dad lives in a crowded one bedroom apartment that he let go garbage, just like our other house right after the divorce when i was 7. I’m fifteen now and my brother and I have been seeing him weekends ever since. My brother connects more with my dad than I do. They’re both too comfortable with how messy the apartment is. When we’re there my dad is often asleep or in his room,so we don’t really talk. When he is out he and my brother game all day. I often get tired of being there and i don’t like staying there at all and it makes me feel bad. We don’t have to go out to eat or see movies all the time, he can’t really afford it anyway right now. But i don’t feel comfortable there and i often call my mom and i leave early. I don’t do anything at my moms either but it’s more homey i guess. Which is why i feel bad. If you can help with my conflicted feelings i would appreciate it.
    I love my dad, and i want to spend time with him, but his place is always dirty, his moods are unpredictable and he’s quick to anger. How can i confront him about this?

    • Terry says:

      Hello Malayna,

      You don’t mention your age at this time, but I recommend that you ask your mom if you can see a counselor – either at school or in the community. Your desire to spend more time with your mom(at her home) is very normal and typical but I can’t give you specific advice in this format. This site is not designed to be professional counseling but information and support. However, most counselors could help you with this issue and hopefully it can be resolved rather quickly. I believe that you can benefit from this type of assistance but if you don’tn agree, perhaps your mom and help you and you’ll be able to sit down with both of your parents and discuss your wishes. Perhaps it will go better than you think – especially if you own your feelings, don’t blame anyone, and are clear about what you need to thrive!

      Best Regards,

      Terry

  25. Marty says:

    Hello,

    I am close to someone who is experiencing what I believe to be parental alienation and it is getting so bad it breaks my heart. The courts do not enforce orders that hold the mother to shared custody but they do if a payment is late. What is at the heart of the matter is the two lovely girls that are being turned against a more than willing father who was once the light of their life.

    the mother refuses to consent to counseling for the daughters to attend with their fathers. I can see why father step away when the hard that is happening, do you advise fathers to continue the fight for lack of better words to stay in their daughters lives or step back and hope they find their way back.

    Any wisdom is appreciated.
    M

    • Terry says:

      Hello Marty,

      While every case is different, I do advise that dads do their best to be active in their daughter’s lives and to stay in contact – even through emails or letters. It’s true that a young woman will probably eventually see the truth if her dad distanced himself due to legal reasons. But disruption between a dad and a daughter does damage a relationship and is quite common. I would advise that your friend seek counseling so that he can gain support and more individualized advise.

      Regards,
      Terry

  26. Nicole says:

    Hi Terry,

    Thank you for writing this article. My father and I have a very distant (basically non-existant) relationship. My parents divorced when I was 6 years old, and he remarried when I was 8. I am now 28. My stepmother has been a tremendous source of turmoil for our family, and has been verifiably emotionally and verbally abusive to myself and my father. Needless to say, she and I have never really gotten along very well because I have always stood up for myself whereas my father would not. He just passively takes the abuse (never sticked up for me either) and I had enough once I reached my teen and young adult years.

    As of now, I have not seen or spoken to my dad in 4 years because of the aforementioned stepmother problems. I decided it was best not to have an abusive person in my life even if it costs my relationship with my own father. My grandfather (his Dad) recently passed away and I did not attend the funeral, but his death has brought up a lot of supressed thoughts and emotions and I have been thinking about reaching out to him. It is extremely depressing to think about how I have been cheated out of a relationship with my dad because of my stepmother. I really do not want to reconnect with her though. I am not sure what to do in this situation.

    • Terry says:

      Hi Nicole,
      Our book “Daughters of Divorce” which will be published by Sourcebooks in January of 2016 will discuss how to heal this damaged relationship. Individual therapy has helped so many women heal and move forward as well. Just know – you are not alone!

      Regards,

      Terry

  27. david says:

    I have been lucky to have a good relationship with my 19 year old daughter. She’s so much like me in so many different ways. The divorce, three years ago, was hard on her; telling her was the worst day of my life.

    Here’s the problem. I’ve been dating a woman on and off for over a year. It’s serious. I’d like to be able to introduce the two of them — two women who are really important in my life. But each time, I start to talk about my date with my daughter, she goes off the wall. She starts crying, becoming very emotional. I’ve just started to avoid the subject, but it’s creating problems with my date, who’s introduced me to her daughter but who feels like a phariah when it comes to my own children.

    I don’t want to force a discussion on my daughter that she doesn’t want to have, but I don’t want to have to hide something that’s important to me.

    I’d be really appreciative for any help, suggestions.

    David

    • Terry says:

      Hello,

      It sounds like you could use a counselor to help you with this delicate problem. Your daughter’s reaction seems to indicate that she hasn’t come to terms with the breakup of your marriage. But I don’t know her and can’t give specific advice over the internet. I would meet with a counselor yourself and then ask your daughter to join you for a few sessions. In the end, you will have to introduce her to your new partner and it sounds like you need support in doing so in a way that won’t make your daughter feel excluded.

      Best Regards,

      Terry

  28. Tom says:

    Hi Terry,

    Great topic, and I believe that with the divorce rate today, there are many fatherless kids so to speak. Typically, the woman is awarded custody, and the man is awarded child support.
    I say this because I have an ex wife that has repeatedly tried to alienate me from my son and daughter, and continues to do as the kids are turning into adults. I overcame this obstacle when the kids were young, but now that my kids are older and wanting to see me more, my ex is getting in the way like nothing I have ever imagined.
    I could get really specific, but I just wanted to comment that the world is changing….especially in North America where men are growing more and more afraid to create and provide for a family because of the prospect of divorce.

    • Terry says:

      Thanks Tom,

      Parents deserve to spend close to equal time with their kids unless there are reasons such as abuse making that a problem. Studies show that children and teenagers benefit from having equal access with both parents. I’ve done my own research and my findings concur with the larger studies. Dads are crucial to the emotional, cognitive, and social development of their kids!

      I hope your situation improves and I appreciate your comments!

      Regards,

      Terry

  29. Sean says:

    Hi Terry, I have a 10 year old daughter and I’m considering moving out of state in two to three years for new job after I finish college. At that time she will be 12 to 13 years old. I have remarried and her a step mom havecdevelop a good building relationship. We will relocating for jobs. Me and my daughter have very very close relationship where we continually text when she’s with her mom, and do family things together when she’s with us on the weekends.I’m really concerned about this transition even though she’s maturing and adapting very well. It seems that we’d be able to continue having a great relationship with daily texting letters and frequent visits every year every summer and spring break. What is your take on this situation and do you believe that it will it can work out??
    Thank You

    Sean

  30. Todd says:

    Hi Terry,

    This subject is my biggest issue since my divorce 6 years ago. I am remarried and expecting a new baby boy and day now. I have a great relationship with my oldest daugter (now 25) who lives near me and my son (now 20) who is away at college, but I cannot figure out how to connect to my 14 year old daughter. She lives with her Mom and Stepdad an hour away from me and is involved in school and dance 7 days a week leaving no time for visits. When I do see her, we have nothing to talk about. It is breaking my heart. Phone calls and texts are abrupt. I cannot figure out how to connect…help! Any books, articles you can suggest would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Todd

    • Terry says:

      Hi,

      I agree that this is a huge problem. Please check out my book list on my Resource Page of this website. You can also contact me for coaching by selecting that tab on this website. My book “Daughters of Divorce” will be published by Sourcebooks in January of 2015 and I have a chapter on the father and daughters – crucial to the well-being of the daughter throughout her life.

      Thanks for your comments!
      Terry

  31. william says:

    hi Terry, this really helped me. i have been divorced for 6 months and had moved out almost 2 years ago, and i was in the same house but sleeping downstairs for over a year before that. my daughter is 19 and was not happy with me for doing what i needed to do, I did the cliche thing of moving out the week she went to college out of state and moved in with my current partner, my daughter is starting to not have as much anger with me,which is good, but she will not even consider meeting my new partner. I am being cool about it and not forcing it but i wonder if this is going to be the way it is forever. she is an only child and her mother nad her are super close, many people would say TOO close,she is back for the summer and i am going to see her at her moms house tonight which is a first, we have only been meeting for lunch of movies and a lot of awkward silence unless it is about current events or movies. just wondering if i am on thew right track here, thank you!

    • william says:

      p.s. i hadn’t watched the video at the top till now and i feel like i am doing the right stuff! thanks again!

      • Terry says:

        Hello William, Glad you are on the right track!Check this website for notices of the publication of our book “Daughters of Divorce” in January, 2016!It’s full of stories and tips for overcoming issues related the father/daughter bond, love, commitment,intimacy and trust!

        • william says:

          thanks again! will do . my visit to my old house to hang out, eat and binge watch t.v. with my daughter was very succesful and i feel maybe my daughter is starting to see that i haven’t abandonded her, i just don’t live in the same house anymore.starting to see how time does eventually heal, and then you die!! ha

  32. Anne says:

    Great information. However, my struggle is that my ex husband is completely ambivalent, has broken every promise to be consistent in spending time with my daughter and fostering his relationship with her and now she is suffering incredibly. The suggestions are great for how men can work on their relationship with their daughters but I’m searching on how to help my daughter (who is only 12, started cutting, is depressed, and promiscuous)as a mother. She has seen therapists, but without his involvement, and roller coaster of his broken promises, I’m terrified for her and can’t do anything to take her pain away.

  33. Jully says:

    What advice would you give to a single dad with full custody of a 4 year old? The mom left and has no plans of re-entering their lives again.
    The 4 year old asks for her mom and says that she knows her mom is not coming because they had an argument. It’s been 6 months since she’s seen her, and 4 months since she’s last talked to her. It breaks my heart. There really isn’t much out there for single dads.

    • Terry says:

      Hello Jully,

      This is a delicate situation that needs careful consideration. It would be unfair and unprofessional for me to give advice without more information and a counseling or coaching relationship with the dad and his daughter. However, you can tell the dad to email me and we can set up a telephone coaching session (see tab on this website). Or, you can recommend that he seek counseling for himself and his daughter.Most schools have a resource guide or you can select the resource page on this website.

      Regards,

      Terry
      terry@movingpastdivorce.com

  34. Jon says:

    Going through a divorce right now… Although my x and I remain friends I am worried to death about my two daughters. One is 12 and one is 9. I am currently spending as much time with them as possible, but worried about this time when their Mom moves to a different location. I have always tried to do fun stuff with them and hope this will continue in the future. Any words of help are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Terry says:

      Hi Jon,

      I have a blog on this site about long-distance parenting – it’s not ideal but it can word if you continue to actively stay in touch. The little things matter and girls can be sensitive to feeling stepmoms and girlfriends are rivals for your attention. I recommend you pre-order my book “Daughters of Divorce” (see homepage and click link to pre-order). I offer a chapter on dads and daughters and lots of insights and tips from my interviews of over 320 women raised in divorced homes about their experience.

      Best,
      Terry

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