Embracing
Your Father
 

September
Your Daughter's Young Adult Years: Money, Sex & Career and their impact on your father-daughter relationship - Part 1


As millions of daughters head off to college this fall or begin their young adult lives in the workforce, we might wonder: How do father-daughter relationships generally change from the time she leaves high school until she becomes a “real” adult? What usually puts the most stress on their relationship? And how can father and daughter strengthen their relationship or overcome these obstacles during her early adult years?

Changes & Tensions Both father and daughter need to change some of their attitudes and their behavior in order to create a more adult relationship with one another during her college-age years. Unfortunately what usually happens is that one person is readier for the change than the other. Either dad is treating his daughter too much like a little girl while she is striving and wanting to become an adult. Or dad is treating her like an adult while she is still behaving and wanting to be treated like a child. Your mutual struggle as father and daughter to create an adult to adult relationship usually reaches it peak over these three issues: his money, her sexual lifestyle, and her career plans. In my next two columns, I’ll discuss sex and careers. For now, let’s turn our attention to money.

Money Money usually causes so much tension between fathers and young adult daughters that I devote an entire chapter in my book to ways to resolve these problems. The tension stems from the fact that most fathers and daughters have different feelings and expectations about the role that money should play in their relationship at this point in her life. Use this quiz to assess yourselves:

Banking on Dad?

How do you and your father feel about these matters? In addressing the following statements, use 0 to mean “ absolutely not,” 1 to mean “maybe,” 2 to mean “probably,” and 3 to mean “definitely.” After I graduate from high school, my father should

Dad
Daughter
Question

.

.

Continue to pay all my educational and living expenses.

.

.

Loan me money instead of telling me to get a bank loan.

.

.

Pay for my graduate school education or part of it.

.

.

Pay for most (or all) of my wedding.

.

.

Set aside some money for me as an inheritance.

.

.

Let me live at home for free after I’ve finished school and have a job.

.

.

Help me to make a down payment on a house.

.

.

Pay for most (or all) of my first car.

.

.

Pay for my health and car insurance until I finish my education.

.

.

Offer to give me money when he sees that I’m financially stressed.

.

.

Total scores (30 possible)

There are four different combinations of scores that create problems in your relationship. (1) If daughter scores higher than 20, she’s still banking on dad to take care of her financially and to bale her out of financial scrapes like he did when she was a child. If dad’s score is just as high as daughter’s score, then the two of you agree that it’s okay for dad to be the piggy bank and instant cash machine. You two probably don’t disagree very often about financial issues. Still, your financial arrangement has a down side that you may not have realized yet – feelings of obligation and entitlement, as we’ll soon discuss. (2) If a daughter scores above 20 but dad scores more than 5 points lower than she does, there’s probably a lot of tension between you two. Dad wants daughter to be a financial grown-up, but she’s still behaving like a little girl. The greater the difference in your two scores, the greater the tension. (3) If a daughter score less than 10 but dad scores more than 20, she wants to be financially self-reliant, but he wants her to continue depending on him for money. Maybe dad feels she won’t need him for anything any more once she’s on her own financially. Or maybe he’s afraid that he won’t be able to influence her decisions any more now that she isn’t taking his money any more. (4) If both of you score somewhere between 15 and 25 points, you are still having trouble deciding what your financial relationship with each other ought to be—and that detracts from your relationship. In terms of what’s best for your father-daughter relationship, the best combination is when both of you score less than 10. This means both of you are glad that the daughter is becoming financially self-reliant.

Although daughter may turn to dad for advice when she’s in a financial jam, she won’t expect or ask him to give her money—and he won’t feel that the loving thing to do is to give money. But since many daughters and fathers aren’t in this group, financial issues often detract from your relationship.

Let’s start with this “golden rule”: “Those who have the gold make the rules.” Daughters and fathers have to understand that when she accepts the “gold” from her father, there are usually strings attached—strings that may be invisible at first but eventually become heavy ropes around both your necks. For instance, she may consider the money dad gives her to be a “gift”, but he might consider it to be a “loan”—money that he expects to be repaid when his daughter can afford it. Other times you both agree that it is a loan, but it’s not made clear when the money is supposed to be repaid. At some later date dad may feel taken advantage of because daughter hasn’t repaid a dime when she clearly has the money. Resentment can also occur if dad gives or loans money to another child, without making the same gift or loan to his daughter. But the biggest risks involve obligation and entitlement. Depending on how dependent the daughter is on her father’s money, she may feel obligated to do things she doesn’t want to do—little things like spending time with dad when she really doesn’t want to or big things like going into a career she has no interest in because dad footed the bill for her expensive college education. While a daughter may feel obligated, a dad may feel entitled—entitled to have a say in how his money is spent: what school his daughter should attend, what jobs she should apply for.

As fathers or as daughters, we need to recognize the way money affects our relationship and to communicate honestly with one another about our feelings, our beliefs, and our expectations.

©2008 Dr. Linda Nielsen

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It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. Pope John XXIII

Dr. Nielsen has been teaching, counseling, conducting research and writing about adolescents and father-daughter relationships since 1970. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the recipient of the outstanding graduate's award in teacher education from the University of Tennessee in 1969, she taught and counseled high school students for several years. After earning a Master's Degree in Counseling and a Doctorate in Educational and Adolescent Psychology, she joined the faculty of Wake Forest University in 1974. Her grants and awards include the Outstanding Article Award in 1980 from the U.S. Center for Women Scholars and a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Association of University Women. For the past fifteen years she has focused primarily on father-daughter relationships with a special emphasis on divorced fathers and their daughters. Her work has been cited in the "Wall Street Journal" as well as in popular magzines such as "Cosmopolitan", and shared through television and radio interviews..

In 1991 she created her "Fathers & Daughters" course - the only college course in the country that focuses exclusively on father-daughter relationships. In addition to having written several dozen articles for journals such as the "Harvard Educational Review" and the "Journal of Divorce & Remarriage", Dr. Nielsen has written three books: How to Motivate Adolescents (Prentice Hall) and Adolescence: A Contemporary View (Harcourt Brace) which sold more than 60,000 copies and was adopted by hundreds of universities throughout the country and abroad between 1986-1996. Her third book, Embracing Your Father: Creating the Relationship You Want with Your Dad was published in April, 2004. www.wfu.edu/~nielsen or E-Mail

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