After a Break Up - Building Back Confidence in Your Daughter
By: J. Frederick Robinson
As fathers, we love our little baby girls. We want to shield them from the world and protect them from any harm, hurt, or heartbreak. So, when the day comes and her big beautiful eyes, that have looked up to you since a stumbling toddler, are filled with tears, you may feel petrified because these tears aren’t toddler tears.
They don’t hold the weight of broken dolls, ouchies from bikes with boo-boos to kiss, or even,“that boy’s being mean, daddy!”. No. Her big beautiful eyes now hold the tears of a young woman, and that boy's being mean”, has now become, “that boy broke my heart, daddy."
Heartbreak - this may not seem like it’s in your wheelhouse. You may feel ill-equipped and that this is something better suited for mommy to handle. Still, you must remember that fathers are important in matters of the heart as well.
If you try some of these tips, you’ll be able to help your daughter rebuild her confidence after a breakup and manage these challenging and emotional moments with a bit more ease and comfort, forming a stronger bond with your daughter as a result.
The first, best, and most important thing to do when it’s time to help your daughter through a breakup is not to do anything at all. This may sound counterproductive as a father whose first instinct is to jump in, offer advice, beat the bad guys, kill the spiders, and fix it. On the contrary, the best course of action is to pause and take a step back. Keep in mind, that the fact, she is there coming to you or has accepted you reaching out to her is a good sign - it's incredible.
Don't mess it up trying to be the daddy. Although this jumping-into-action style is reserved because it’s mental and emotional, it’s a critical action nonetheless. Typically, dads want to resolve, fix, and get over the problem as quickly as possible, but unfortunately, that’s just not how the heart works.
The next step is to listen. Don't talk. Don't offer advice. Just shut up and listen. More than just letting your daughter rant, you're creating a comfortable nonjudgmental environment and letting her know that she is safe with you. And she isn’t ranting - she’s expressing, emoting, and explaining.
We can’t build any form of practical, loving communication if we begin by dismissing or reducing her feelings, even if it’s just to ourselves. This mental dismissal disconnects us from the moment and ensures that everything we try to say inevitably misses the mark. I know it's hard to turn off the sage-advice-lecture-daddy, but at this moment, put it to rest. Be mindful and present at the moment. Don't just hear her talk; engage emotionally.
Hear what she is saying and how she feels and what her experience is and every time you hear a voice in your head say, “what you should do is…” - shut it off. This isn’t the time to think of replies or solutions.
Being present and mindful will help you connect more sincerely, understand her, and “read the room” more. Reading her body language, voice, and emotional level acutely helps us know when to ask more, pull back, respond, or just listen. This practice also helps us fathers do better with the “shutting up” part because any advice you offer will be unsolicited, and you’ll risk shutting her down and turning her away from you in a moment when she still needs her daddy.
Daughters tend to run to their girlfriends, aunts, or their mothers for advice, comfort, and sanctuary for relationship matters. It makes perfect sense because there’s a comfort there. They are all women, they understand the feelings, experience, and perspective, and more importantly, there is safety with that comfort.
And with fathers, there may be an immediate wall of hesitation because, at times, even with a great relationship, we just may not speak the same language. This barrier is why we must listen, be mindful, and present at FIRST. Trying to force a resolve or understanding simply won’t work.
Disconnect from your thoughts and focus solely on her experience and feelings. Regardless of how you may look at the situation, or even her reaction, this chaos and torment she is experiencing are real. We’ve all been teenagers before. Our worlds were small, volatile, developing, and new, and it didn't take much to make it feel like the sky was falling. Put yourself in her shoes - her age - her world.
If we can voluntarily put on an Oculus to be in another world playing Call of Duty or traverse the Metaverse, then we can do it for our daughters. Once we’ve disconnected from ourselves, our strict perspective, and reactions, then we can become more in tune with our little baby girl and really be the daddy she needs.
Once you've had the opportunity to talk and connect, do something - anything. Activity is a distraction and is wonderful at breaking the spell of heartbreak and will keep your daughter from negatively ruminating excessively. You can do nice, sweet things like daddy-daughter dates and lunch, but any activity will help. When she is low and trapped in her pain, a simple, “Hey, I’m going to run a few errands, want to ride with me?” can change her entire day. It’s about spending time, changing her focus, and letting her know if ever she needs anything - whenever she needs anything - daddy is there.
Now, as a man, you have your male perspective, which is extremely valuable and can be of great benefit, but you can only offer that perspective IF SHE ASKS.
Great advice about signs and behaviors can easily be interpreted as victim-blaming, and blunt honesty about the "nature of a man" can deteriorate her concept of love and romance and relationships entirely. These are hot waters to tread, but if you're mindful and listening, then you'll know when you should jump or not jump in at all.
The way a father can help their daughter rebuild their confidence after a breakup is by loving them; with love, being there for them, and making sure they know they can always go to you. That’s all. There’s no advice, lecture, or gift - rebuilding and healing come through love and time.
Remember, these are your 4th quarter, finals moments. These moments are the most important and weigh the heaviest because you are exhibiting male behavior - positive male behavior.
In this situation, you want to be a good dad, help your daughter, and model how a loving male resolves, heals, and loves.
These are our moments to jump into action because our beautiful little angels grow, they become busier, have their own social circles, and are slowly growing into their personalities and their womanhood. It’s a lot.
So, our special moments where we can display our love, care, and concern come few and far between, so when a moment arises where we can help - and be a dad - let's make sure we are present in that moment, effective in that moment, and cherish that moment.
I always think about this fantastic James Baldwin quote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
It's our actions that leave the biggest impressions - not gifts or long Friday night sitcom dad lectures, not money you spend, but what you do, how you show up for them, and how they feel after.
J. Frederick Robinson is a Bay Area writer, father, husband and creator. You can follow him on Medium.com where he writes about fatherhood, mental health, and culture.