Q: My 14-year-old daughter has hit the "boy crazy" stage. As a dad, I'm really dreading the whole dating thing as she gets a little older. How can I prepare both of us?
Jim: It's the age-old struggle for fathers with daughters -- I'll admit on this issue I'm a bit relieved I only had sons! My best suggestion is to teach your daughter the proper role of dating by frequently taking her out yourself.
Regardless of a daughter's age, going on a date with Dad has many benefits. For example, as a girl develops her identity, she often measures herself against impossible standards of "beauty" portrayed by Hollywood and/or social media influencers. You can have an immeasurably positive influence on her perception of herself just by spending time with her and affirming her.
Dating your daughter also allows you to model how a man should treat her. You show her she's valuable by making one-on-one time a priority, especially when you let her suggest activities she would like to do together. Your unconditional acceptance for who she is will build her self-esteem. You can also help her develop a sense of individuality by carefully listening to her and respecting her opinions (even if you don't fully agree). Most importantly, regularly dating your daughter keeps her heart open to you.
So, block out time in your schedule for frequent dates with your priceless daughter. It doesn't have to take all day, but make sure the time is special by limiting interruptions. The best way to ensure success in your daughter's future dating experience is to make sure it starts with Dad.
Q: My wife and I have two preschoolers in the house. It seems like we seldom connect anymore; she always talks about how tired she is after being with the kids all day. How can I reinforce our relationship?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: Remember this when you arrive home after your long, tiring day: your wife has had an equally long, tiring day. She needs two things: (a) adult conversation, including overt expressions of appreciation, and (b) an adult pair of hands to pitch in, take charge of the kids, handle dirty clothes or other debris, and do other things to lighten her load.
Beyond that, here are some "pro tips":
Don't expect to be cared for like another child in the house. Pick up your own toys and clothes.
Don't expect much sexual response when your wife is exhausted, especially if you haven't set the mood. As the saying goes, sex begins in the kitchen -- with meaningful conversation, acts of kindness and compliments, in addition to active work in helping reduce her to-do list.
Join in (or even take over) the process of getting the kids ready for bed. It helps you stay connected with them and also does wonders for your wife's frame of mind.
Maintain regular date nights -- whatever your imagination and budget can manage, whether it's a meal, a concert or just a walk. Focus on conversation and companionship. Make a point of keeping your wife current on your day's activities, and definitely find out about hers.
Take her away for a romantic weekend, or even dinner and an overnight stay, someplace where her daily responsibilities are suspended. With planning and creativity, this doesn't have to be expensive.
Call or text her during the day to simply say "I love you" and offer encouragement.
Flowers and gifts -- for "no particular reason" -- speak volumes.
The bottom line is that all relationships require constant investment from both parties involved. For more tips and resources to help your marriage thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com/marriage.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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