I see good dads struggle sometimes to stay connected as their sweet little daughters grow up into teenagers and then adult women. You can't tickle her like you might have when she was little, or carry her around on your shoulders. She's probably over board games and throwing the baseball with you by her teen years. Now what? What's a father to do to stay emotionally connected, when he has, of course, never been a young woman himself ?
Sometimes fathers of girls tell me they feel like they are at an unfair advantage, as mothers and daughters may have more same-sex ways to connect with each other, like shopping, cooking, getting nails done, crafts/art, etc. Fathers need to be more creative. Fathers don't often do as much phone contact with daughters as mothers do, or have the same length of conversation. It doesn't mean that your daughter doesn't need you just as much.
Much of being a good father or stepfather has to do with being interested in her, and listening more than you give advice.
It helps her to know that you are there.
Meet her friends when you can. Take the college roommates out with your daughter for a meal.
Express your love for her.
Help with her car. Teach her how to maintain it.
I like to see fathers develop their own relationship with teen or young adult daughters, not hearing news indirectly through mothers.
The good news is that you don't have to figure this out all by yourself. You can ask your daughter what kinds of activities she would be open to doing together with you. She will probably have a lot of good ideas. Daughters are usually touched by dad's interest and concern.
Take an interest in her college and career path. Encourage her to get a part-time job and internships later to build her experience and confidence.
Role model through how you treat the adult women in your life with respect. She's watching.
Teach her life skills, so that she becomes strong and independent.
Teach her about money, and the value of saving it. Help her understand about investing.
Talk with her about choosing relationships that honor her, because she's very important to you.
Point out her strengths.
Daughters need loving, involved fathers. Granddaughters need caring, interested grandfathers. Girls whose mothers remarry need loving, supportive stepfathers. Just because you've never been a young woman doesn't mean you can't try to understand the complexities of emotion that the special young women in your life are experiencing. Transcending self and your own gender role to be a beloved father, grandfather or stepfather might just be one of the very best experiences in your life. It might help you build compassion and understanding for the adult partner in your life as well. Mothers bring children in to the world and nurture them, but fathers have their own irreplaceable role to play taking our children out into the world, develop courage and confidence. You don't have to have been a girl to love one well.