This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a Father-Daughter Ball in Minnesota. It was all I could do not to cry tears of joy as 100 adorable, bright-faced little girls twirled around in their sparkle dresses, with many donning bling from head to toe, all with beaming smiles on their faces. One sweet eight-year old girl even showed me the red rose wrist corsage her dad bought her, one that matched the boutonnière he wore on his lapel.
As I watched fathers of varying skill sets dance with their daughters, one thing was strongly evident: every single girl was engaged with her father at a heart level.
There’s something magical that happens in the heart of a daughter when her dad intentionally invests in her by choosing to spend time with her; she radiates joy from the inside when her heart is happy. It shows on her face, in her smile, and through her eyes.
With this being Valentine’s Week, it seems fitting that we talk about more than flowers and chocolate, jewelry and cards. Let’s dig a little deeper and address the impact to a daughter when her heart is happy because it’s healthy and being nurtured. Today’s blog is about more than just her physical heart; it’s about emotional heart health.
It seems that everywhere we turn these days there is information about keeping our hearts healthy---from commercials on television to advertisements in magazines. And now that I’m in my mid-50’s (with cholesterol that is way too high), I’m keenly aware of the fact that if my heart isn’t in a good, solid, and healthy place, then I’m at greater risk for a heart attack.
It’s the same way with a woman’s emotional heart. When her heart is in a good, solid, and healthy place, she functions at maximum capacity with strength and stamina while simultaneously decreasing her risk for a heart attack.
Research shows 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with healthy lifestyle choices and management of risk factors. If this reality applies to one’s physical heart, could it be that the more a dad chooses to invest in supporting his daughter’s emotional heart health that it would decrease risk factors that could cause damage to her heart? I believe so.
Dad, if you want to increase the strength and vitality of your daughter’s emotional heart, may I suggest we use the same grid that makes our physical hearts thrive:
1. Daily exercise
If our heart works best when we move and get our blood pumping, then in order for your daughter’s heart to thrive, she needs to be active. In relationship to you that could translate to making sure that the two of you regularly engage in shared activities that allow for increased bonding through circulation (talking, volunteering together, sharing chores or projects, exercising and sports, Bible/book reading, praying together, etc.). Dad, are you moving daily toward your daughter and letting her know that her interests matter and she’s valuable to you?
2. A healthy diet
What we eat makes all the difference in how our heart functions. If you’re like me, it’s usually easier to commit to eating healthy when I’m supported by someone with the same health goals. When it comes to dads leading their daughters, imagine the potential strength if both dad and daughter cautiously scrutinized what they “feed on.” This could mean evaluating how much screen time each of you engage in as compared to real time (face to face) that builds and strengthens your relationship with each other, as well as with others. Dad, make sure to model a healthy lifestyle (intrapersonally, as well as interpersonally) that supports growth and maturity because you lead by example.
3. Manage stress
Keeping our stress levels in balance is a challenge for most of us, especially when the pressures of life accelerate. And because we as women often experience increased stress during that “time of the month,” I would suggest that you make a decision to be extra loving during that time every month as a way to offset her tension and internal intensity. Your gentle, compassionate, non-reactive responses will go a long way to helping her level out, which results in a healthier and happier heart.
4. Avoid secondhand smoke
Much research is focused on supporting a stance of distancing from toxic fumes as they are emitted from the mouths of those who ingest nicotine. Translating this relationally, teach your daughter to set boundaries and practice healthy self care when she is breathed on by toxic friends or those who emit noxious fumes from their mouths, whether through gossip, slander, criticism, negativity, or anger. Then ask yourself if the words that escape your mouth are healthy for your daughter to be around.
5. Do more of what you love
Do you remember as a kid that you never thought about exercise as the end goal, but it was all about having fun with your friends? In the process of enjoying being outside and playing, your heart got a good workout. Similarly, as a dad, I would encourage you to ask yourself how you can better come alongside your daughter to help her enjoy the life she’s been given. Make it your goal to support her in finding her passion as she uses her gifts and develops new hobbies or skills. The truth is that the more she lives from her heart, the less she will struggle with unhealthy life choices…because a happy heart is a healthy heart.
So this Valentine's Day, give your daughter a gift that will last long past February 14th, one that engages her heart because you’ve engaged yours:
Choose one area listed above and actively make a choice to invest this week in a way that results in your daughter’s heart being happy. This is the path to supporting her emotional heart health...and yours.