In Indian families, it is always the male member who is the head of the family. He is strict, serious and expects everyone in the house to be at his beck and call. This stern figure, many will agree with me, is embodied in our fathers- the eldest, most reasonable and the bread earner. In houses where the norm is that a scary silence spreads in the room as fathers walk in, casual and constructive father-daughter duo conversations are distant dreams. If there is a conversation at all, it is one-sided scoldings and commands from the father that the daughter must listen to with fear and sobs even if she disagrees. Eventually, daughters are forced to normalise and internalise sexism and misogyny and to never raise a voice. So here are a few important father-daughter duo conversations that will help in building a supportive father-daughter relationship.
1. Break the ice with a joke
For every father-daughter-duo conversations to begin, it is important to get rid of the normalised silence between fathers and daughters. We need to deconstruct the idea that fathers aren’t compassionate and caring parent as mothers and hence cannot spend time with their kids. And the best way to begin the talk is through jokes. Every father-daughter duo should be comfortable with each other enough to share jokes and chuckle. If not jokes, then at least watch comedy movies together or share funny incidents from each other’s daily life (past or present).
2. Fathers must shower compliments on their daughters even if they do not turn out as per the expectations
It is common with every parent to have expectations from their children. At times, these expectations are too high, unrealistic and inconsiderate of what the child aims at. Consequently, they become the reason for the communication gap between parents and children. Therefore, every father should encourage his daughter to have an aim and chase it. He should tell her about the perils that she might face in her journey but never demotivate or discourage her by judging her aims and dreams.
3.Daughters, make your fathers understand your ambitions
It cannot be denied that the career options that we have today are completely different from older times when options, scope and freedom were limited. So it is sometimes difficult for our parents to understand how our out-of-the-box career choices will yield success. The best way to remove their misconception is to educate them about modernity and tell them how your choices are the best for you.
4. Fathers must involve their daughters in discussions about business and finance
Often, the discussions about business and finance are done in closed rooms bereft of women. Moreover, the family business is passed on to the male heir because the daughter will be married off to her ‘own house’. Eventually, women internalise the idea that they cannot manage money. On the contrary, women are not able to manage money because they are never taught about it. So it is important for fathers to strike a conversation with their daughters about money, business and its problems and how to manage as the head of the firm and family.
5. Discuss the political issues and affairs, especially those centred around women
Not every family encourages their daughters to have an opinion on current affairs and express them. Their voices are subdued as naive and irrational. Since fathers are considered to be the most responsible and aware member of the family, they should encourage their daughters to have political opinions and discuss with him. Moreover, fathers should not negate their daughters’ opinions just because they are different and radical. Rather the duos must discuss the topic further and let the difference in opinion harbour educated and free individuals and relationships.
6. Conversations on sex, sexuality and periods must not be avoided
It is much easier to talk about periods, harassment, sex and sexuality with your mothers. But with fathers, not many daughters are open about the same things. And this is problematic because the taboos around these conversations cannot be smashed by partial outspokenness and partial silence. Therefore, it is important to break the silence on sex, sexuality and period in a father-daughter conversation.
7. Talk to your fathers about feminism
Although feminism has been with us since history, for many families it is a new radical concept even today. Some families are too orthodox to understand the idea of feminism while others have internalised misconceptions about feminism and negate it even though they practice it. So as empowered daughters, talk to your fathers about feminism and make them understand its history and relevance. You know what would be new and amazing? when fathers help their daughters understand feminism since a very small age.
8. Lastly, be each other’s friend
Even though we have watched many movies in which fathers and daughters have been portrayed as the biggest support system for each other, its translatability, in reality, is still a distant dream. So every father-daughter duo must strive towards being each other’s best friend and champion. Develop a bond in which both are comfortable to share and understand each other’s feelings. Unlike the popular strictness and perfection, Fathers too have breakdowns and need support from their family members. And daughters sitting next to him listening and supporting is the change we need to aim.
Though we belong to a society where a daughter is not allowed to sleep next to her father after a certain age, it is in our hands to change the equations and make father-daughter relationships a symbol of compassion, friendship and freedom. And normalising these conversations could be the key to it.