It's not easy being a single parent. So, when a single dad took to AskReddit to ask the internet for some help on how to raise his daughter, the responses were overwhelming. The following answers are both heartwarming and brutally honest.
Source list available at the end.
Familiarize yourself with feminine hygiene products and learn not to be weirded out by such things.
When you introduce her to women you are dating or just friends with, treat those women the way you would want your daughter to be treated by men. Daughters learn a lot about how they should be treated by men from the examples set by their fathers.
In my opinion, the most important things are to teach her to never be ashamed of her body, her feelings, or her dreams. There are a lot of people who will try to undermine her in many ways, and the best thing you can teach her is that while humility is important, it's just as important that she never fear how to stand her ground.
I'm a woman and my mother died when I was 13. I was raised much of the time before that and certainly all of the time afterward by my dad alone. I also had three younger brothers, so I know what it's like to grow up totally surrounded by men.
Finding advice on what to tell your daughter about her health, body image issues, relationship issues, and even fashion is easy. It may seem overwhelming to you, but I swear that's the easy stuff. You can find that information on the internet!
My best advice is to make sure that your daughter has women in her life while she's growing up. This means both a peer group and (if you can) some "mom-aged" women who will actually mother her, like aunts or grown-up female cousins. The difference between actually having your own mother-figure and getting to watch your friends be mothered by their own mothers while you're at their homes is pretty profound.
It's not about the words of wisdom. It's about feeling any sort of connection to your own gender and that gender's "culture." Imagine if you were the last man alive and you lived in a village with all your female relatives. Then, one day, you came upon a village totally populated with men. You might be excited at the prospect of not being alone, but you might also be terrified. Are these men going to be able to tell you're not "really" one of them? Even if they say they see no difference between you and them, will you always have a sneaking suspicion that they had access to some sort of "man knowledge" that you missed out on because they grew up with fathers? Would you even feel comfortable engaging with these men socially, or as used to as you are being alone or solely with women?
Just having close female friends would be good for your daughter. Allow/encourage her to have sleepovers and "girls nights" at your house, etc. Female friends will also fill in the knowledge gaps that you don't get to cover.
Besides, it's just good for your daughter to have a healthy social life. If she doesn't have any real women to emulate or to turn to for information on what it is to be a woman, there is something waiting to step up to the plate and that is the mass media. It's hard enough being a woman in American culture to just ignore the media stereotypes of what it is to be a woman, but if the women portrayed in movies and on television are literally the only women she has as role models in her life that can be problematic.
As a woman who lost her mother young, I have a few weird things I didn't learn. While not earth-shattering, they are good to remember. Simple things like when having a guest over offer them food and drinks. I can never remember that one, even now. Also, write thank you notes for gifts. It seems to me like those things aren't as important to guys, but women notice when you don't do it. Also, do you have sisters? I think having a mom figure is very helpful for my mental health. One of my mom's sisters stepped in and is like a mother to me. As an adult, she really helps keep me sane. I don't have very many female friends, and she is the woman in my life I can really talk to.
Teach her that girls can kick butt. Make her learn to use your power tools, fix the plumbing, and balance the budget. Make sure she can sew on a button and cook a good meal.
My parents were serious about making sure their kids were self-sufficient. I'm sincerely glad that I can split firewood, as well as, make a souffle and get stains out of things. When I moved into the dorms at college, I was aghast at the number of girls who were completely helpless. I had to teach my roommate how to boil eggs.
I guess I don't have girl-specific advice after all, except that you should teach her everything you would teach your son, and make sure she knows how to grit her teeth and get stuff done.
Oh, and when she hits her teenage years, make sure she actually gets fitted for her bras. That is serious.
Be open about intimacy. That way she will come to you for birth control instead of just going at it. Let her know the act might mean more to her than him though. Teach her how not to be a mean girl, but also how to stand up for herself. Stress to her the importance of being kind to people. Teach her how to shop properly. If she wants the brand name jeans, cool, they have them at a consignment shop for 1/2 the price. Teach her how to cook. It is a life skill that everyone should have. Teach her to trust her instincts. If she thinks someone is creepy, they probably are. On that note, self-defense is always a good idea.
I would say just make sure she has a positive female role model in her life, one of your friends or a teacher perhaps.
I grew up with a single dad as well. For the most part, I had a decent childhood, but looking back the lack of openness on certain subjects was bothersome. For example, every month a giant box of pads would appear in my closet. I guess he was buying them in bulk. I was too uncomfortable to tell him I didn't need that many. Eventually, he saw my stockpile and eased up for a few months. My advice would be to continue being open with her. Also, try to have positive female role models in her life. Friends, aunts, neighbors, anyone. I had 5 brothers and a dad. To this day, I have a hard time understanding women at times. It has affected me in small ways, but I wouldn't change it even if I could. I knew he loved me and grew up with a positive view of men in general.
My dad raised my siblings and I single-handedly and did an amazing job handling all of the awkward parts (sex, periods, hygiene, etc). But there's one thing he couldn't teach me, and that was about femininity. My best advice is to make sure she spends time around older women, maybe an aunt or grandmother, just to learn what it's like to be a lady. If there is one thing that upsets me about myself, it's that I never learned "lady" things like fashion, how to be in a relationship, how to flirt, or how to be girly in general. I can chill with the boys and be one of the guys just fine, but I find myself incredibly awkward and anxious around girls (which sucks, because I'm in a sorority). I also end up making my boyfriends feel awkward because I'm just not that girly and that upsets me the most.
I would say teach her self-defense (on a more practical level that has nothing to do with the absence of a mother).
But also, teach her how to love compassionately, unconditionally, and without prejudice. Teach her how to see things from someone else's perspective even if she disagrees. To be forgiving and understanding of others. And finally, teach her how to respect herself and never let anyone near her who fails to respect her.
Your daughter is lucky to have someone who cares. My dad was emotionally absent during my childhood, and my mom heavily preferred my sister while basically ignoring me until I left for college. I pretty much raised myself. One thing I wish I had was someone to listen to me, not judge me, and not try to force me to be someone I wasn't. Be supportive (unless you think she'll hurt herself and/or others), even if it's not exactly what you had in mind for her (going to art school instead of law school, for example). Above all, be yourself. Don't try to be someone you're not. She'll love and appreciate you for who you are.
The most important things I can think of are to give hugs, kisses, and try to just be able to "chill/hang out" with her. I fully respect my dad for raising me by himself, and I can see how much of himself he sacrificed in the process. Throughout my life, however, it was painfully obvious that whilst other kids were getting cuddled and physical affection from their parents, my dad and I never bonded like that. I think he was afraid that it would seem odd. Stuff that sort of attitude. Let people think what they want. I just wish I could give my dad hugs, even now, that don't feel forced or awkward.
Another thing that's also been said, but if you have a female family member that your daughter can bond with, do everything possible to facilitate time together for them. This depends, of course, on that family member's attitude to your daughter. My one aunt helped raise me when my dad needed to travel for work, and I spent all my holidays at my aunts' houses, taking turns and experiencing a "normal" family where I was loved and given physical affection.
I thought I wasn't going to go into it, but regarding feminine products, please sort it out in a civilized manner whether you're going to buy them or what. I had to buy them myself, or at least accompany my dad, because he said he felt people were giving him the filthy eye if he stood alone in a queue with my jazz in his shopping basket. It would probably have been better for my self-esteem if I wasn't given the impression that feminine products and, by extension, my biology were something shameful or suspicious.
Teach her confidence. Not as easy as it sounds. Help her feel good about herself and not to set unrealistic expectations. Young women face a lot of pressure when it comes to what they should be and how they should act (while the focus is mainly on sexuality) and it's nice if family is supportive rather than constraining.
As much as you will want to be overprotective, try not to. My dad's gendered double standard on dating (my brother could bring women home, but my sister and I couldn't do the same with men etc.) is part of what drove me to start having sex too early.
With regards to wisdom, having a sense of dignity. A LOT of girls these days lack dignity. On the same token, a sense of self-worth. This will help her in regards to things like boyfriends and peer pressure. Having self-worth and a good idea of who you are and what you believe in makes it easier to say "No" to morons.
Then, all the basics: good values, good manners, good personal hygiene. Things that you would teach a boy too.
One thing I have always been thankful for is my dad teaching me how to take care of a car. Nothing too intense, but just how to check the oil, how to replace a tire, how to talk to a mechanic so you don't get scammed, etc. It really gave me the confidence to deal with those things on my own. One thing I wish he did was just let me react when I got upset over something before trying to work through it. Teach her that emotions are okay, don't be insane about them, but let them come out before working through a problem.
I'm not a single dad, but I do have a daughter and I'm am very active in her life. She is still a toddler, but I make it a point to challenge her physically and mentally. I "play rough" with her and I read with her. I am teaching her to explore the world and to ask questions. Even if they are difficult, I always try to answer them honestly. Even if I know she may not fully understand the answers yet. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I will do my best to make sure that she knows how to love and respect herself, as well as, other people.
Sometimes she will come to you with a problem that, with your wisdom, does not seem so big. To her, it absolutely is. Let her cry and talk about it. Do NOT offer any suggestions unless she wants them (and she will let you know if she does). She just needs someone to cry to.
Just give her lots of love and support. Listen to what she wants, but also remember that she does need some discipline. So, not everything she asks for she gets. I just say this thinking about the way my mom treated me. She's a wonderful woman. She was patient, caring (too caring sometimes), she always told me stories I could relate to when I'm in a certain social ordeal for example. You know, a lot of what moms do is just listening, loving, and communicating. Focus on communication.
As a father, be supportive and help her understand men and how she should be treated, which is with respect and to not accept anything less than that. My father worked abroad his entire life, so I feel like I never really had a father figure in my life. I feel like it did affect the way I assess potential boyfriends. I always accept being trodden over and treated badly. I always accepted little love and little appreciation. It took me a lot to learn this on my own.
Feminism. My mom taught me the basics of feminism without ever saying the word. She raised 3 young kids while getting her Master's degree and showed me that I could value education and a career at the same time as having a family. Practical things like feminine hygiene, makeup, and clothes she can learn on Youtube. Self-respect and expecting respect from others she will learn from example. Don't let her get into the mindset that being a woman is an excuse. Expect her to try and do everything that her brother does.
The one thing my dad never did was show interest in what I was interested in (specifically basketball). He only made it to one of my games my entire life and he left early. I felt like he didn't support what interested me and only what interested him. If you say to your daughter that you understand and support her, then do it to your fullest.
Teach her to take care of her hair. There's a right way and a wrong way to brush, condition, dry, train, and style a girl's hair. Familiarize yourself with the necessary techniques. Any woman should be able to bring you up to speed.
I don't think you can fill both roles. That's not to say you can't be a great parent to her and still prepare her for life. It's just that daughters have a very different kind of relationship with their dads than they do with their moms. As a teenager, my mother drove me nuts, but as an adult, she's one of my best friends now. I'm very close with my dad as well, but my mom and I have a different kind of emotional closeness. The best thing I could tell you would be to support her and love her. Be sure that she knows that you care about her and that you are there for her. Let her know that you are behind her in all things 100%. When you tell her that she can be/do anything she wants, mean it. Help her to be strong and independent, but let her know she can always come home. When she's upset about things (even if you can't, for the life of you, figure out why she's crying), dry her tears and tell her that she is loved and that things will work out. You may already do these things, but upon reflection of when I was going through adolescent and teenage years, these are the most important things you can do for her.