Faith & Living _ “The Making of a Woman.”

Carrying the theme from last month through (The Making of a Man), let’s focus on the raising of girls within a community, where we all have the opportunity to contribute.

I’m writing this mainly to men, as I’m the dad of three girls (now grown women with their own families). I believe that dads play an incredibly important part in the formation of a happy and well-adjusted adult woman.

Recently, I was sitting with a group of 18-20 year old girls over a cuppa at an extended learning facility where I’d gone to lecture.  The girls began to say things like, “we love it when you come to lecture Pastor Gary because you’re such a father-figure to us young people.”  It occurred to me that they represent a growing population of young people in our nation who lack a father-figure in their lives.

My daughters will attest to the reality that I was not a perfect father.  But there were some things I learned.  I continue as a Pastor to put the following things into play when I’m around the girls and young women in our church and community…

¨ Girls need their dad to affirm them.  We do this by speaking positively to them and reassuring them.  I used to often say to my eldest daughter, starting when she was just a little girl, “you can do anything.” She is now 39 and is one of the most capable people I know.

¨ Girls need their dad to make their environment feel safe for them.  This means among other things, ensuring their bedroom and bathroom privacy, especially where brothers are present.

¨ Girls need their dad to encourage but not flatter.  Girls can easily become obsessed about their body image.  They don’t need their dad to comment about it.  When they’re little, avoid going on about them being cute, gorgeous, etc, because it lays the foundation for looks and body image being the “most important thing.”  Encourage them when they’re kind or caring, forgiving or generous.  It helps to focus on more important values than body image.

¨ Girls need their dad to help them feel good about themselves.  I recall a day when my second girl had been learning to play guitar.  We constantly heard the plaintive tones of, “Una Paloma Blanca” (“A white Dove” – we lived in Chile) coming from her room.  Then it fell silent for a few weeks.  I went to her room one day and simply said, “Sonia, this house is just not as cheery as when you played and sang.”  It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that we heard, “Una Paloma Blanca…”  She went on to become a brilliant singer, and song leader.  They don’t need to hear that ‘they’re stupid or ditzy’ or any other such thing.

¨ Girls need their dad to model being a good husband.  It’s good for a girl to see her dad treating her mother well, with gentleness, encouragement, honour and respect.

Now that I’m grandfather to 4 girls, I’m able to continue doing my part to add to the great job that my kids and their spouses do in the “making of a woman.”

In our community of Dayboro, there are lots of girls and young women working in the retail outlets and businesses.  What a great opportunity this is for us men to play our part in making them feel respected, encouraged and safe.

Gary Levens is pastor of Dayboro Church. *

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