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SALT LAKE CITY — It seemed just yesterday you were figuring out how to tightly wrap that precious baby girl in her new pink receiving blanket. You held her close and promised her that you would be by her side no matter what this new life presented for her. You assured her daily that she was your new tiny best friend.
Now, some years have passed and you are once again figuring out how to tightly wrap that girl back into your arms and convince her daily that you are best friends. You are left wondering how you both got here so quick.
Those first couple years of her life it seemed so easy and simple to connect with her and she valued every moment you spent with her. You might be asking yourself where that little girl went and what to do about it now.
As parents, we are always striving to help our child feel loved. But life gets messy, busy, complicated and oftentimes frustrating. On those days, it may feel like there is a real disconnect with your daughter. Here are five small things you can do to connect with your daughter.
Help her with her hair
As the parent of any girl, you will undoubtedly know that hair is a large part of her life. Whether its styled and coiffed perfectly each day or quickly thrown into a ponytail, I can guarantee that her hairdo relates to her identity in a real way.
Take some time to sit with her and simply see how she does it. Ask her what her routine is. Ask her how she makes it look so great. Offer to braid it for her, if she so desires, or blow-dry it straight for her. Make certain to maintain a positive, nonjudgmental stance at all times.
If she is younger and does not do her own hair yet, then spend a little extra time to ask her what she likes about her hair. Add a cute bow or something that captures her personality. Talk through this process with her. Let her take hold of the brush for a day while you watch her creativity shine.
Do this occasionally and you will be bonding in a natural way and laying down the groundwork for her feeling comfortable with you on a more intimate level — not to mention the boost in self-esteem this will give her.
Hug her goodbye
Taking that small moment to say hello and greet her with a hug when she comes home can go a long way. Arrivals and departures happen so frequently in our day, it is easy to slip into a pattern of casualness. But these quick moments can be a huge reassurance for your daughter to know that she is cared for and provide her with confidence as she goes out the door into the world.
When one of you leaves, make a point to hug and or kiss her goodbye or tell her "I love you." Let her know that you missed her while you were apart. There will certainly be times when it seems she does not care for those moments or is too rushed, too old, or even too cool to walk across the kitchen to give you a hug. Do it anyway.
Talk about relationships
Discuss and examine the relationships in her life with her — whether it is friendships, family relationships, crushes or school relations. Understand her views on the people in her life. Help her understand what a healthy relationship is. Teach her how to communicate with people.
Give her expectations of what she should expect in a romantic relationship someday. If those expectations are not modeled or presented for her, she will settle for whatever comes her way. You can start this by opening up about your own relationships — you cannot expect her to tell you about her life if you are not willing talk yourself. It doesn’t have to be deep or complex. Just get talking.
Get her moving
Get off the couch and get going! Be excited about going on a walk together, maybe to the park. Play a little game of tag (if she is younger) or jump on the trampoline together. Try an exercise video together. Get your heart rate up, get your blood flowing, and soon that serotonin release will occur in the brain (the happiness hormone).
When the body is happy, the mind can remain calm and content for a moment. Soon your daughter will relax and feel at ease connecting with you. When this occurs, any mental or emotional distractions she was having will melt away. Not only is this prime time for connecting, but it is paving healthy habits for both of you.
Do random, silly things together
No matter what age your daughter is, she will certainly light up when she sees you do something weird or funny. We all know how the song goes… “Girls just wanna have fun” — and they do!
Girls thrive off of humor and excitement. Use this concept to quickly build rapport with your daughter. If she is really young, it will not be hard getting her to laugh (peekaboo, a game of chase, singing silly songs, etc.).
When she is upon her teen years it gets trickier, but just get creative. Some ideas include blindfolding her and having her guess what food she is tasting, then let her try it on you; or role play a funny scene from a movie. Most teens love random, weird things, such as putting on wigs and going in disguise for your next trip to the mall, or daring one another to roll around in the snow with only your swimsuits on.
Don’t be afraid to get a little bit crazy with your teen. Through her eyes you'll suddenly appear cool and relatable. Eventually, a genuine friendship will develop, and those moments when you sit down to have a heart-to-heart talk won’t feel so forced or awkward. These silly times go deeper than they appear because they build trust and respect in relationship.
These suggestions are just a few simple ways to keep that connection with your daughter strong and happy. The more genuine you can be in your approach, the better. Take the time to enjoy this life with her while she is still young. Embrace the mother-daughter or father-daughter bond and never surrender into thinking it is too late to reestablish or repair the relationship. Just keep on loving your girl.
Lacey Hancock, MA, ACMHC, is dedicated to helping children, adolescents, adults and families overcome life's challenges. Lacey practices at Life Stone Counseling Center's Midvale and American Fork locations. Learn more at www.lifestonecenter.com.