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Keeping the father-daughter bond tight after divorce

Fathers often worry about how they're going to maintain their emotional bonds with their daughters after divorce.

It's a reasonable fear. A father who is suddenly relegated to "weekends and alternate holidays" due to the constraints of his job and the most viable custody and visitation schedule may feel like his connection with his daughter is bound to slip away.

A father may also worry about how his daughter will perceive him, post-divorce. Will his daughter identify so strongly with her mother that she either rejects him (if she initiated the divorce) or blames him (if he initiated the divorce)? That's another reasonable fear, especially with daughters who are old enough to either understand or suspect the reasons behind a divorce.

Here are some ways to minimize the problems you may encounter in your own father-daughter connection after divorce:

1. Recognize that your daughter will identify with her mother at some stage of development and model some of her own behavior after her mother's. She may fear rejection from you because of it. Be careful if you make a comment like, "You're just like your mother!" that you aren't being negative. Steer her away from negative modeling by praising the positive and don't project your frustrations at your ex-wife onto your daughter when she behaves similarly.

2. Don't draw away from your daughter because you aren't sure how to connect to her. If you start spending less time with her because you aren't sure what to do together, that's a sure way to weaken the father-daughter bond. Make sure you keep your visitation schedule and ask for more time if you need it in order to strengthen your emotional bond. If you can't find a shared interest with your daughter, adopt one of hers -- whatever it takes to make the connection.

3. Connect as often as possible in small ways. Make sure that your custody and visitation agreement allows for plenty of phone calls, texting, email and online chats. Today's girls are online a lot, so learn to adapt to the technology and make use of it in order to develop or maintain your emotional connection to your daughter.

If you need help working out the details of a custody and visitation agreement that will help you stay connected to your daughter, ask an attorney for help.

Source: Psych Central, "Kids and Divorce: Ten Tough Issues," Robert Stone, accessed May 25, 2017

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