10 Things Divorced Dads of Daughters Should Know

divorced dad with daughters

How can you be a great Dad to your teen daughter, when you’re divorced?

I divorced Flea’s Dad over ten years ago now. One of the things that I really thought about back then was how my choice not to be married shouldn’t affect Flea’s right to have two loving, involved parents.

Co-parenting isn’t always easy. We definitely don’t have it all sorted.

What I’ve learned is there are times in life when co-parenting seems easy and natural. And there are times it will just about break your heart. The way you co-parent changes as your child changes. And you adjust and you stumble, and you do your best.

With that in mind, today I wanted to share some of the things I think divorced dads should know about parenting. And especially parenting their daughters.

Dads are our First Role Model

As a Dad, you are your daughter’s first and most important role model. How you treat her will shape how she expects men to treat her throughout her life.

Love her. Tell her that you love her, all the damn time. Tell her when she’s angry. Tell her when she makes mistakes. Tell her even if she’s let you down or doesn’t want to talk to you. The Dad you are now is a huge part of the man she’ll choose as a partner one day. Don’t you want that guy to love her in the very best way possible?

Divorced Dads: Treat Your Former Partner Well

Your daughter is also watching how you treat the OTHER most important person in her life.

Understandably, if you’re divorced there are bound to be frustrations, and hurt feelings. It’s complicated. But all of that should be out of sight. What your daughter should see is that men should be able to handle difficult emotions, and still treat women with kindness and respect. Always.

Learn to Do Hair

When Flea was younger she had a terrible habit of not brushing her own hair. One summer she went to stay with her Dad for two weeks and told him that during the holidays, she didn’t have to brush her hair.

And he believed her. He doesn’t have hair, so I guess he has an excuse..

divorced dad daughter tips

Anyway, while I spent three hours de-tangling, Flea explained she didn’t like Daddy to do her hair because it hurt. It’s a shame Dad missed out on those bedtime hair brushing sessions for all those years.

Learning to do your daughter’s hair isn’t hard – it just takes a little time. And if you want to be the super dad who can do braids and do’s, well, that’s why YouTube exists.

Show Up

Despite what she says to her friends, Flea loves the fact that I turn up at every hockey match she plays. Children notice this stuff.

As a non-resident Dad it won’t always be easy to show up to a tournament, a play, or a party. But you should. Because it tells your child they’re important. That you’ll adjust your schedule to see them. That you’ll miss that football match because they are playing Three Blind Mice on a guitar in the school hall.

Don’t be Disneyland Dad

If you’re a non-resident parent, you might only see your child for one or two days a week. It’s 100% understandable that divorced dads want to fill those days with MAXIMUM FUN.

But you’re a Dad. Your job is really just about quality time with your daughter.

That might be as simple as going for a picnic in the park, or making a meal together. The key thing is to make that time as interactive as possible – make sure you’re talking, and doing things together. Those little moments and memories are what’s going to build the closeness that will see you through times that you can’t be together.

Flea’s Dad used to see some things as being a “waste” of the time he and Flea spent together. Why would he want to spend time taking her to parties, or visiting the hairdresser or buying new socks? But those small domestic moments are what teach her that you show up for ALL of it. That’s being a Dad.

Love Their Music

Flea’s Dad is a serious music person. If he had his way Flea would be listening to music from the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus on punk, prog rock and “serious” musicians.

But he’s not above sitting on his computer at 8am trying to get tickets to the BTS concert, or asking about the latest single from her favourite K-Pop band.

For starters, modern music is really pretty good, at times. And second, when your child really, really loves a song and can’t help but sing along? That’s a lovely moment and you don’t want to miss it.

Use Technology Freely

Technology gets a bad rap, but it’s how girls today connect with their friends.

Flea’s Dad texts her most days with book and movie recommendations, or links to interesting articles. She does often ignore them (to be honest) but she knows her Dad is thinking about her.

Occasionally Flea will send her Dad details of an article she’s read, or a meme that made her laugh. She’ll FaceTime him on holiday or send him a photo where she looks particularly cute. It’s just about keeping up those small moments of connection.

You’re the Dad

Parenting isn’t always easy, whether you’re living with your child or not.

Sometimes kids will make mistakes. Sometimes they’ll be distant, or hurtful. I think for divorced dads it’s so easy to take those moments and overanalyse them. To imagine your relationship is less than it is, or that you’re irrelevant, or unloved.

Remember this: You’re the Dad. Nothing on earth will ever change the fact, and nobody else will ever fill your shoes. Every bit of research confirms that Dads are hugely important to girls’ development. So stick it out and remember that you’re irreplaceable.

Don’t Withdraw from your Teen Daughter

Don’t back off when your daughter maybe needs you the most.

Flea is 13, now, and occasionally I’ll see her Dad is a bit unsure. He is less willing to give her a hug, or tell her he loves her. He’s not so sure if she wants to talk, or spend time together. He doesn’t want to talk about dating. AT ALL.

teen clothing sizes

I know it’s awkward but your teen daughter needs you as much as she ever did.

Make the effort to overcome the weirdness and learn about periods, and Snapchat. Don’t refuse to discuss her crush, or to buy her a new bra if she needs one. Whatever it is, let her know that you are there for ALL of it.

But don’t ever mention any of “all of it” in front of her friends. Just a tip.

Build her Confidence

Flea’s life is a never-ending round of worry about her hair, her make-up, her trainers, her school marks, her Snapchat score. It’s tough being a girl in this superficial, social media age.

Sometimes, a divorced Dad can add to the pressure by expecting a bulletin of results and achievements when they’re together. How did your match go? What about that maths test? Did you get that part you auditioned for? Were you selected for the team? 

I tell Flea’s Dad to ask me those things, first. That way he can focus on being his daughter’s cheerleader.

The best thing divorced dads can do is celebrate their daughter’s successes, and remind them that it’s what inside that counts, not their figure, or their face, or even a test score or hockey trophy.

Remind your daughter that she’s special, just for who she is.


So there you have it. My top ten tips for divorced dads with daughters.

I hope that they’ll prove helpful to some of my readers. But please remember that none of us are perfect at this stuff. And so long as your daughter has two loving parents who are trying their best, it’ll probably all work out just fine.


photo credit: shutterstock



6 thoughts on “10 Things Divorced Dads of Daughters Should Know”

  1. Great reading for dads. Sometimes life is very hard and we need to sacrifice to keep life on track. But if its gone wrong than you should know how to handle things.

  2. Interesting. So what happens if your once playful and sharing daughter is now 12 and no longer wants to do anything with you but instead spends all her time on her mobile phone which her mother has taught her since 8 that her separated father cannot take away. If the main parent constantly undermines the non-resident parent who only sees his children 3-4 days a month (which is the usual court order in the UK) then the reality is that the father ceases to be a parent and role model.

    1. I’m not sure if you’re venting (valid) or asking for advice. But if you are asking for advice, as someone who now has a 17 year old, and has seen her share of struggles in the relationship between daughter and Dad, here’s what I’d say.

      12 year old girls not sharing or talking and retreating into their phone is 100% normal, and the odds are that she’s exactly the same with her Mum as she is with you, so don’t take it personally. I know my teen’s Dad really felt like I was “stealing” his time, but the truth was our 12yo felt we were both lame and irrelevant. It happens. If you can, try to use the phone to your advantage – my daughter’s Dad sends her links to movies they might see together, or a selection of daily TikToks that he thinks will make her laugh.

      Second, just be her Dad. Regardless of what Mum says, 12 is old enough to read between the lines and your daughter will trust what she sees over what another parent says. Between 12 and 18 your girl is figuring out who she is separate from Mum and Dad, and sometimes she’ll pull away or reject you to do that. I think that must be especially hurtful when you only have a little time together because of course you want it to be nice and fun – but here’s what you can do, and that applies whether you see her every day or twice a year. Be her Dad. Get involved in the everyday stuff, because that’s where closeness is made. My girl’s Dad saw her every other weekend, but he also went to every parents evening. He went to every hockey match, every school play, every scout parade. All of those organisations and clubs are totally used to separated parents, and will cc Mum and Dad on all communications, so you know where to be and when.

      The other thing related to this is I think for lots of Dads, when you see your kids so few days, it’s tempting to BE ALL FUN ALL THE TIME but closeness comes from being the one who buys the new school shoes, tops up their phone, takes them for eye tests, cooking dinner at home, just spending time watching TV. Rather than wanting your time with her to be YOUR time, make it HER time. Does she want to bring a friend over for tea? Can you take her and a couple of friends to Pizza Express and bowling? That’s a great way to be part of her life and the things she enjoys at 12, 13 and beyond. It might take a few years, but investing in that sort of everyday parenting relationship where you are part of her life regardless of only physically having visitation x days a month, will pay dividends when teens remember that their Dads (and Mums) can actually be good company once in a while.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you for your advice. However, the situation is such that my daughter does not want to do anything, period, except be on her phone and her schoolwork. Everything is already about her and as such she has become somewhat overly entitled. She does not want to get involved in any shares activities. I am a responsible parent and have always attended all her school and extracuricular activities, even though she ignores me at these events and pretends not to see me, despite me travelling 100 miles for some of these. Unfortunately I am also aware that her mother encourages this negative behaviour towards me and that my daughter is completely under her mother’s thumb. Her mother is wholly unsupportive of our relationship and has gone to great lengths to obstruct this and undermine me so to create conflict between my daughter and I. As such before separation, my daughter and I had a good relationship but over the years all I can see is that my daughter no longer appears to value our relationship or consider me as a parent and has no interest in seeing her relatives on my side. So far I’ve not been able to find a way through this mess so any ideas would be greatly welcomed.

        1. As the Mum in this scenario, I know my ex felt a lot of the things you do, because my daughter and I are very close, and she struggles as a teen with her Dad sometimes, because their interests are very different and her Dad wanted quality time in the limited time they had together.

          What I did in that scenario was tell my ex that our daughter ignored me almost as much, and tell my daughter that while she was entitled to feel her feelings, she owed her Dad the same respect and courtesy she offered anyone else.

          As for advice – wow, it is tough. I’ll tell you what I told my daughter’s Dad.

          First – you are an equal parent even if custody isn’t split 50/50. So it’s okay to have clear expectations when you’re together. You can say, “When we’re together, I want us to spend at least one afternoon of the weekend doing something together, and you can choose what that is, or if you don’t mind, I’ll choose. The rest of the time you can relax on your phone, but it’s important to me that we spend real time together.” Depending on your relationship with your ex, I’d be inclined to communicate that your daughter will still have her phone, but having the basic level of respect for someone to put your phone down and give them your attention for 1 or 2 hours is absolutely not too much to expect, and an important lesson for pre-teens and teens to learn.

          Second – this is a long-term investment. Maybe you won’t see the return this year or next or the one after that. It doesn’t feel like it, but your daughter SEES you showing up every other weekend come what may. She sees you at parents evening and sports matches and school plays. Whether she can express it or not (and she might feel like she needs to be ‘loyal’ to her Mum and not say it) what she’s learning here is that her Dad loves her and is there for her no matter what. That her Dad puts her first, and respects her enough to let her have space and time, but also to ensure the relationship doesn’t completely fall apart.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *