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We turned to Loren Buckner, a licensed clinical social worker, private practice psychotherapist and the author of ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal With Them, for her best tips on how to boost the father-daughter bond.
1. Deal with past issues
Don't let the past impede the relationship you currently have with your father. "Without realizing it, resentments—even ones that go as far back as childhood—are often at the root of difficulties in adult father-daughter relationships," says Buckner. Rather than trying to ignore whatever issues are holding you back from having a good relationship with your dad, the best way to let those issues go is to examine them.
"Exploring with your father what went right and what went wrong clears the way for a more solid, mutually satisfying relationship," she advises. "However, if he isn't available for this kind of conversation then the adult child will have to find their own path to understanding and forgiveness."
2. Learn to accept your father
"Accept your dad for who he is rather than who you wish he could be," advises Buckner. Trying to get your father to be different—whether that's more sensitive, more talkative or more reasonable—can get frustrating and drive the two of you farther apart. If you think that if you could only get him to be a certain way your relationship would automatically improve, think again.
"Odds are against this happening, unless he really sets his mind to it," Buckner warns. "So the work of adult children is to accept their parents for who they are—warts and all."
Page 1 of 2 — Discover three more tips for building a stronger father-daughter relationship on page 2
3. Pay attention to your father's positive attributes
It can be easy to focus on the things you find frustrating about your father or the things he says or does that drive you crazy. But to build a better relationship with him, focusing on the positive is key.
"No dad is perfect. Dads make mistakes. They say and do the wrong things. They can, from time to time, be maddening. Long story short, fathers are human too," says Buckner.
"Ask yourself: Is his heart in the right place? Is he funny? Is he generally good-natured? Does he show you in his own little ways that he loves you? As much as possible, breathe in his good qualities and enjoy them," she advises.
4. Share more with your father
Talk to your dad about his life experiences and share yours with him. Conversations with your parents can often be relegated to superficial topics that don't allow for bonding, but the more you share the easier it will be to connect.
"Ultimately, people like to feel appreciated and understood by their loved ones. It helps them feel close. So talking about his life and yours can be a good bond-building experience," says Buckner.
If you're not sure where to start, ask your dad what his childhood was like, talk about what you both remember about your own childhood, find out how he courted your mom or ask what kind of teenager he was, she advises. "The more effort you put into understanding one another the more comfortable your relationship will become."
5. Find out what you want from your father-daughter relationship
Think about what you want from your relationship with your father. Is your goal simply to get along better or is it to improve the quality of your relationship?
"Getting along better is more about learning to let things go and to keep the relationship friendly, simple and light. Improving the relationship is more about taking on difficult topics, improving communication and sharing yourself more deeply," explains Buckner. "Knowing what you're looking for in your relationship with your father can help you manage expectations and lessen tension," she says. The good news is that both goals have the potential to make your time together more enjoyable.
Maintaining a strong adult bond with your parents isn't always easy, but the more effort you put in and the more patient you are the easier it will be to reconnect.
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