Fathers of Girls

By Dan Coulter

Warning: Fathers of girls trying to understand current girl culture are likely to experience disorientation, consternation, and incredulity. Girl culture has traditionally been a mystery to many dads. However, accelerating social pressure for girls to see and present themselves as “sexy” at younger ages is adding layers of complication.

Girls are getting conflicting messages. We’re telling young women they can be anything they want to be, while entertainment and advertising channels warn them that they better look extremely alluring to boys while they’re at it. And don’t get me started on vampires.

As rocky as this landscape can be for typical girls, it’s even more of a challenge for girls with Asperger Syndrome and autism.

What’s a father to do when his little girl is confronted with a culture glorifying revealing clothing, cell phones and sexting?

You can be a role model, a counselor, a cheerleader, and a listener.

Girls learn some things best from mom, a sister or another experienced female. But they can learn a lot about the world, and especially about relationships with men, from fathers. Treating her mother and other women with respect shows your daughter how she should expect men to treat her. Talking with her about the world and how it works prepares her to deal with situations that come up. Seeking out her strengths and encouraging them builds her confidence. Accepting her for who she is makes her less likely to feel the need to do something desperate to be accepted. Listening to her shows that her opinions matters.

From the time she’s young, find ways to take your daughter with you. Show her how you evaluate the things you buy and how you deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Demonstrate how to use basic tools -- how to fix a faucet and change a tire. Be part of her world and find ways to spend time with her and her peers.

My wife and I just got back from a trip to see our strong, independent twenty-something daughter, Jessie, who graduated law school last year to take a job in Texas. Jessie doesn’t have Asperger Syndrome, but she’s always been close to her brother, Drew, who does.

While Jessie had her share of challenges growing up, I was always proud of the way she met them with grace and confidence. The primary credit for the woman Jessie has become goes to Jessie. But I have to say that I enjoyed every minute I’ve spent with her. I had a ball with her alone, chauffeuring her and her friends, and at the parties she’d throw at our house for other members of her high school band.

Jessie is intensely loyal, but never let a boyfriend walk over her. She loves her job, her friends, and her life.

As a father, I hope that part of who she is today was influenced by my always showing her in my eyes what she’s worth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the videos, "Managing Puberty, Social Skills and (Almost) Everything - A Video Guide for GIrls," and "Asperger Syndrome for Dads." Both are available as DVDs or downloads. You can find more information and articles on his website: www.coultervideo.com.

Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved Used By Permission

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