But Dad! A Survival Guide for Single Dads of Tween and Teen Daughters

In 10 chapters, the book, But Dad! walks single fathers –divorced or widowed- through the intricacies of parenting tween and teen daughters. Read about how to stay connected with your child after divorce or your wife’s demise, and be a great dad.

Zoom In on What Matters

In 10 chapters, But Dad! walks you, the single father –divorced or widowed- through the details of parenting tween and teen daughters. Written in a casual and friendly tone, this is an easy book to access.

“When you really need help, you can crack this book, find the chapter that answers your questions and find out all you want and need to know on any given topic related to single parenting a young girl.” (p2)

Why They Wrote the Book

In Can This Book Help You Raise Your Daughter? co-authors, Gretchen Gross and Patricia Livingston, explain why they put it together.

“The reason why we wrote this book is because women have the inside track on girl stuff. We know the secrets…We’ve got the 411* on pads, tampons, cramps, broken girl dreams, zit creams, and shaving legs…”

Besides providing insight as professionals, Gross and Livingston share from personal experience. They write: “Pat and I have both raised daughters and co-parented with exes … and … have a sense of what single dads know and want to know…”

Gross is a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine. And, Livingston is a women’s health nurse practitioner with more than 20 years of direct clinical experience at the UVM Center for Health and Wellbeing’s Women’s Health Clinic.

Dealing with Divorce and Mum’s Death

The chapters, Divorce and the Other D-Deployment and If a Mother Has Died, carefully and thoughtfully get you to think about the changes in the family, as well as how it affects everybody.

As the adult, being aware of the adjustments in your daughter’s life and your efforts to help her through will be invaluable; whether it’s ensuring that she is comfortable in your home, grieving alongside and getting her to express her loss, or creating new traditions.

When there’s a separation or divorce, you can help her establish a sense of belonging to a new physical environment. Gross and Livingston write:

“Too often we hear daughters talking about their dad’s home as her secondary home, not as important or real as the home with her mom. Although it’s natural for any of us with more than one home to feel differently in both spaces, there are lots of sound reasons why daughters need to feel as welcome and at home in Dad’s house…

Go out of your way to help your child feel as rooted and grounded in your home as in her mother’s home. It will be better for both of you in the long run.” (p15)

On Tweens and Teens

The fourth and fifth chapters give you a better idea of the world of girls at each stage.

Tweens: The Golden Years, provides a better understanding of your daughter’s emotional and physical development. The authors discuss pertinent topics such as appropriate levels of father-child physical contact as your daughter grows; menstruation and how to stock the bathroom with the right products; your girl’s interest in boys; explaining to her about sex; as well the understanding of one’s sexual identity.

Kudos to the authors for approaching the issues with careful consideration, providing suggestions of practical ways dads can help their daughters. However, the book suggests that a dad can support his tween to grow in understanding of her sexual identity if she has a same-gender attraction on a continual basis. It is probably premature to do so at this age since such action is based on the premise that same-sex attraction is determined by genetics and is not affected by quality of relationships in the family of origin.

It maybe more appropriate for a dad to guide his daughter’s exploration of her same-gender attractions only at a later stage.

The Teen Years…Whatever! provides practical tips on shopping and caring for bras, dealing with stomach cramps during menstruation, shaving, waxing, acne outbreaks, getting teased, friendships, dating, how to deal with demands for body piercing and tattooing and more!

Single Dads and Daughters –The Details

The sixth to ninth chapters are a magnifying glass look into the intricacies of parenting daughters as a single dad.

Adapting to Shared Custody covers the art of balancing a child’s time between households and parents. It is as the authors say: “…no easy task. There are competing interests and arguments over timing during the school year…and on holidays.” As such, “both parents need to put the child first.” This is, especially so “in the first months and year after the family changed.”

In Your Policy Statement, Gross and Livingston remind you to set boundaries for your daughter so that she can be physically and emotionally safe.

The chapter, Dating, discusses what to do when you, the father, become interested in doing so. There’s a need to be aware of your daughter’s readiness for this new development, and help her adapt without feeling threatened.

“Just do it [dating] with some things in mind. Who you date, why you date, when you date, and how you date are centrally important to this process.” (p106)

A difficult but key chapter to read is Concerns, Crises and Interventions. Even if your daughter is a well- balanced person, be aware of the realities in her environment. Here’s a list of what’s covered:

•    Self-harming behaviours (cutting, burning)
•    Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)
•    Bullying
•    Texting and Sexting (This section contains a list of Text-Speak, and is  especially eye opening, if not dumbfounding)
•    Drug and alcohol use
•    Depression
•    Suicide
•    Abusive relationships
•    Sexual assault
•    Unplanned pregnancies

Building Healthy Connections

Throughout this book, you are reminded that your daughter highly values connection. It cannot be over-emphasised, given the way girls are ‘wired’ for relationships. Maintaining healthy connections will help a girl deal with the change, chaos and confusion which she may be experiencing after her parents’ divorce or her mum’s death.

The book also gives practical pointers on how to relate with your daughter and her world. In fact, there’s a description in the final chapter, Being a Great Dad, on how to become a ‘Spider Dad’ by staying in touch your daughter as a single dad and being a part of her web of supportive relationships.

This book is available at Singapore’s public libraries. Search for it here.

* slang term for information

Gross, G., Livingston, P., (2012) But Dad! A Survival Guide for Single Dads of Tween and Teen Daughters, Rowman and  Littlefield Publishers, Inc., United Kingdom

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 21-11-2012.