Having once been a girl yourself doesn’t always result in a smooth upbringing of your own daughters. Times change, circumstances change, and if you find yourself raising girls on your own, it can be especially challenging.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
Daughters take your cues
If you are angry, they are angry. If you are sad, they are sad. If you are pleasant and calm, they are angry and sad. Well, sometimes that’s true, but for the most part, you set the mood for your daughter. I know this is a daunting truth and responsibility, but there it is.
Don’t be her best friend, but
There will be plenty of time to be chummy with the daughter you raised to be an adult — once she is one. Childhood is not the time to be BFFs with your mom. There is a tendency for single moms to use their daughters as confidants, disclosing details that no child needs know. It is vital that you remain the strong authority figure that she can count on.
That being said, here’s the “but”
In an effort to raise an adult, and not a child, you need to allow for some negotiation as she gets older. She needs to know that you value her opinion and, in return, she will value yours.
Put the kibosh on male bashing
One of the most valuable things you can teach your daughter is respect for the opposite sex. She should never hear you (no matter how angry you get with her father) criticize men, specifically, or in general. You want for her what you, for whatever reason, don’t have at the moment — a healthy relationship with a man.
— Don’t be guilty of the opposite. Try not to objectify men with statements like, “Oh, he’s so hot!” Make sure she knows that men are more than a pretty face and a bundle of muscles. Praise the genuine and lasting qualities of men.
Be mindful of whom you date
It is indisputably lonely out there. If you choose to date, be discriminating about your associations. Remember, she will likely follow your lead. Encourage her to compose a list of qualities she can and cannot live with. Educate her on how to teach others how to treat her.
Discretion is the better part of valor
You may have found the colorful route to adulthood. This does not mean that she needs to know. Things from your past should remain there. It is not necessary to fall off of a building to know it’s going to hurt when you land. By sharing every sordid little detail of “when I was your age,” you are unknowingly sharing this little bit of information: “I did this and turned out all right. You can screw up and turn out fine.” I am not encouraging deceit here, just discretion.
One of the best things you can do for your daughter(s) is to encourage their growth: academically, artistically, emotionally, and spiritually. Promote her talents so that she has a creative outlet and a way of communicating things she may not be able to say. Raise her to be a self-reliant woman.
Show your daughter(s) by example the joy that comes from serving others selflessly. Find and share the joy you feel in raising her. Seek out opportunities to serve others. There is nothing quite so uplifting and able to pull you out of a funk as serving someone else.
The reward to successfully raising a daughter on your own is a warm friendship when she's grown.