Listen to this, dads. Our daughters will keep notes and cards for decades, and she treasures pictures with her friends. For her next birthday, tap into this phenomenon by writing her an extended letter. Take a few moments and jot down funny things you’d like to share with her, reasons you’re proud of her and, most importantly, why you love her. She may act a little puzzled at your letter-gift—and you don’t want to make it your ONLY present—but THIS gift will last a lifetime. Just do it. This is family communication 101.
10 things to write in your letter to your daughter (and keep a copy for yourself):
“I love you from the bottom of my heart”
The expression of love is not inflationary. The more parents say it—the better parents say it; the more deeply it is appreciated. She’s less likely to look for love “in all the wrong places” when she’s confident her dad’s crazy about her.
“I believe in you”
Not just “I believe in you” but “Here’s why.”
- You’re my daughter and I love you
- You’re smart
- I trust you
- You’re a hard worker
- You’re grounded in your faith…
“I think you’re beautiful”
Again, this is about a fundamental confidence in who she is. Beautiful both inside and out. And, just like her mother, she really is going to be just as beautiful as you say she is.
“You make me proud in so many ways!”
Tell her how much who she is means to you.
- “When I watch you act with compassion it makes my heart burst with pride!”
- “The work you did on that project, the way you help out around the house, the good manners you use around other people, the way you handle your allowance….”
No need to make stuff up—just affirm what’s going right.
“I want you to know what my treasures are”
Share your fundamental values with your daughter. Teaching kids from our hearts requires some extra effort. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but I’ve never cared that much about money. I treasure my family. I love your mother so much. You and your brother are worth more to me than anything. My faith in God is the very ground I stand on, and being part of a faith community has made all the difference to this family. You may not realize this, but I passed up a huge promotion when you were little so we could stay in this community where we are loved and you have friends….”
“Let me tell you about the day you were born”
You may or not be a writer, but you can share some of the emotions you felt that day.
- I cried like a baby the first time I held you.
- I prayed for you ever day for nine-months, and I haven’t stopped since.
- You were such a beautiful baby from the first moment.
- Because of you I love your mother ten-times more than what I thought was possible….
“Don’t ever settle for second best!”
You’ve been teaching her this all along, but make it clear in this letter too. Parents want the best for the children. But it’s time she takes ownership of that value. “Use the gifts you’ve been given; treat your body with respect; spend your life with someone who loves you like I do.” Explain why: because she was created in love and with a purpose, she was created to both live and love at capacity. That requires the very best.
“Sometimes my love makes me afraid”
Be honest about the way your love for her makes you cautious. Tell her prospective boyfriends are going to have to pass muster, not because you don’t trust her but because you love her. Tell her she’s going to have to call you and text you when she’s out of the house because you simply ache when you can’t reach out and hold her hand. Tell her you need her to reassure you sometimes. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
“You can always come to me—no matter what—and I will help you to figure things out”
Raising kids, or raising teenagers, either way it’s important your daughter understands that nothing will ever stop you from loving her. Make sure she knows that, even if she’s in trouble, she can talk to you and that you’re willing to help her formulate a plan. Tell her you will always take her calls and always listen when she needs to talk.
“Now I want you to listen to my heart”
Only you know what to write here. But make sure you share from the bottom of your heart. If you’re a man of faith, tell her what that means to you. If you have a moving story about your relationship to your own parents, offer it here. If you’re a poet, write some verse. Do you have a song that expresses something of your soul, quote it here.
Additional Resources on Daddy-Daughter Relationships: 7 Things A Daughter Needs From her Father, Daughters: What's she Feeling, The Importance of the Father Daughter-Relationship, 10 Things to do on a Date With Your Daughter.
Huddle up with your child tonight and say: “I love you because ____.”
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