The Family Project: Advice for pre-teen girls concerns dad
Q. I am a single dad with full custody of two pre-teen daughters. I have no idea how to talk to them about the “womanly facts of life.” My mother is gone, and I have no close female friends. What do I do?
Panelist Mike Ramsey said, “Communication on any subject is based on what relationships you have with the other parties. Obviously, the father can’t relate to some of the issues his daughters are dealing with, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be supportive and help get them to resources they need.
“He can manage it if he has a strong relationship with the girls, and they feel comfortable talking to him,” said Ramsey.
Panelist Charise Edwards said the father needs to be open and honest about what he doesn’t know.
Panelist Erin Stalsitz agreed, saying that if the daughters ask questions, it is OK for the father not to know the answers, and to tell his daughters he doesn’t know.
Panelist Mike Daniels said, “If the father goes into any conversation with the sense of being terrified, that is going to change the tone of the conversation.”
“It is worth stating,” Ramsey said, “that this certainly is not the first time as a parent that the father did not know the answer to a question. In the past, he didn’t just throw up his hands and say, ‘Figure it out on your own.’
“This situation may be more sensitive because he’s not a female, but it’s really not that much different from other positions he’s been in,” said Ramsey.
Panelists noted that they didn’t know why the father was a single parent.
“The context is important,” panelist Denise Continenza said. “We don’t know why the mother isn’t around, and whatever the reason, that could make the dynamics of any conversation more complex.”
Continenza said she wondered if the father had sought counseling to reestablish the family.
Stalsitz suggested that the father contact a school official to learn what is being taught in the classrooms, and what resources might be available.
Panelist Pam Wallace recommended a body book for young girls by American Girl Doll, “The Care and Keeping of You.”
Wallace also mentioned three organizations with resources: Girl Scouts of America, Girls on the Run and Project She.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Charise Edwards, Functional Family Therapist, Valley Youth House.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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