How to become friends with your dad

Psychology professor Linda Nielsen teaches fathers and daughters how to rebuild their relationships. Here’s her advice


How to become friends with your dad

1. Reach out now. Nielsen is adamant in her courses that it’s never too late to build a father–daughter relationship. ‘Commit to spending time alone,’ she says. If it’s not possible to spend time alone with your father because of distance, then she suggests phone conversations. ‘Or start by emailing. That in itself is a huge step if you haven’t done it before.’

2. Don’t be afraid of disagreeing. A good and beneficial relationship does not mean one devoid of arguments. In fact, disagreement can be healthy. ‘That means father and daughter are having meaningful conversations,’ says Nielsen.

3. Find an activity you can share. One-on-one time can seem daunting or too intense if it’s something new, but a shared activity can diffuse that as well as creating an essential bond. ‘Play golf or take a walk. Have an activity that you do together,’ says Nielsen.

4. Work towards asking for personal advice. Women are used to discussing personal issues with their mothers, but the mark of a good father–daughter relationship is being able to discuss everything. ‘When I hear “I’ve got problems with my dad”, I say, "OK, can you phone your parents and tell your mum you’ve got relationship problems and you want to see what your dad says? Or you’re finding it hard being a parent and you want his input?"'

5. Don’t exclude your mother. At some point you can build into conversation with your mother the fact that you want to rebuild your relationship with your dad. ‘You could broach the subject by saying something along the lines of “I want to get to know Dad better before he dies”,’ says Nielsen. ‘Say, “I know you wish you’d known your dad better”. She’ll understand that.’

Psychology professor Linda Nielsen teaches a course at Wake Forest University in North Carolina on the psychological dynamics between fathers and daughters. She also teaches fathers and daughters how to rebuild their relationships

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