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Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast

by Joe KellyBroadway Books; $23.95/$12.95

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As a veteran reader of books about adoptive parenting, it was useful to read a book about another parenting “minority”—fathers of daughters. And, it was helpful to be reminded that reading only adoption books may not prepare us adequately for the universal concerns of our daughters as they grow.
One of the key issues in the father-daughter relationship is the father’s impulse to protect his daughter, often more so than his sons. Kelly points out that “A key lesson of childhood is learning to cope with hurt.” He describes his impulse to solve problems on his daughter’s behalf. But, he says, “In almost every case, my overprotective reaction only frustrated the daughter involved. She wanted me to support her, not to threaten those who caused her pain.” Overprotection can be counterproductive if daughters never learn to protect themselves, and, Kelly says, “It harms the fundamental trust between daughter and father.”
As the father of a son, I see that many of the issues raised apply to father-son relationships as well. One that may not is the impact of recent sexual abuse publicity on father-daughter relationships. Kelly points out: “We do great harm if we let the prevalence of sexual abuse make us afraid to touch our daughters.” Words without hugs aren’t enough to “convey the depth and importance of our love for our daughters.”
Kelly addresses how to remain involved with children after divorce, how to cope with girls’ preoccupation with appearance, and generally drives home the point that a father is the first and most important man in his daughter’s life. The father-daughter relationship will probably color her relationships with men forever. That alone makes fathering worth reading about.
Reviewed by Mike Feazel, a Washington-based journalist and adoptive father.


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