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Kobe Bryant's untimely death has brought to the forefront a great conversation about being a girl dad.

Elle Duncan from ESPN Sports Center gave an emotional commentary about meeting Bryant when she was eight months pregnant. He congratulated her and asked her what she was having. She told him she was having a girl, and he high-fived her and said, "Girls are the best!"

Later in the conversation, Bryant said that he and his wife had talked about having more children, but his wife was jokingly concerned: What if they had another girl? Duncan said, "Four girls. Are you joking? What would you think? How would you feel?"

Without hesitation, Bryant said, "I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad!"

Beyond his basketball legacy, Bryant will for sure be remembered for enthusiastically embracing being a girl dad.

The healthy father-daughter relationship plays an integral role in the life of a young girl. It is a relationship that will give her the self-confidence to deal with challenging issues in her life. When fathers are not engaged in their lives, research shows that daughters often struggle with abandonment issues, lack of self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness and are especially vulnerable to predators.

Girls who grow up without having a relationship with their father are at greater risk for experiencing problems in school, abusing drugs and alcohol, and participating in risky sexual behavior. In fact, adolescent girls without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity.

Dr. Meg Meeker, author of "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters," states that no matter the age of the daughter, she takes her relationship with her father to the grave.

While some dads are quick to embrace having a daughter, others struggle with the father-daughter relationship.

 

STRATEGIES

Here are some ways dads can embrace being a girl dad:

* It's no secret that girls tend to be more verbal than boys. Instead of getting annoyed with all the chatter, take time to listen to her thoughts, feelings and dreams.

* Find something you can learn to do together or teach her a skill.

* Spend intentional time with her doing things she enjoys doing. Yes, tea parties, nail painting and dress-up count.

* Daddy-daughter dates are a thing. It doesn't have to be extravagant.

* Encourage her uniqueness and help her know her value as a person.

* Get involved in their education. Research suggests that daughters' academic successes are closely related to the quality of their childhood relationship with their fathers.

* Show that you believe in her ability to handle challenges.

The father/daughter relationship can sometimes feel very confusing, especially as your daughter enters adolescence. One minute she wants a hug from you, but the next minute she can't stand to be in your presence. While you might be tempted to back off, don't. From birth to adulthood, your daughter can benefit from your healthy presence in her life.

Looking for a fun opportunity to spend time with your daughter? Don't miss the Daddy-Daughter Date night with coach Phillip Fulmer and his daughter, Brittany Fulmer Ennen, on Feb. 28. The event is designed for dads and their daughters (ages 7-18). For more information, visit firstthings.org.

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Julie Baumgardner

Julie Baumgardner is the president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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