Women who have grown up without their fathers often struggle in relationships, as they haven't had a strong male role model to teach them. Whether they have difficulty forming a healthy bond with an adult male or face challenges guiding their own children, these women often feel the absence of their fathers extend into their adult lives. Relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant spoke candidly with these "daddyless daughters," as she calls them, on an episode of "Oprah's Lifeclass."
As a part of helping daddyless daughters to heal, Iyanla encourages the women to reclaim, redefine and recreate themselves. "Redefine who you are now as a woman, not as a little girl missing Daddy," Iyanla tells them. "And the little girl that misses Daddy?... Don't beat her up [or] cast her off. Take care of her."
One woman from the audience of daddyless daughters accepts the advice, but wonders how to parent her own daughter, who is also fatherless. "What about our daughters?" she asks Iyanla. "I can do all these steps for myself, but as I'm working through that, how do I help my 7-year-old?"
The healing process for younger daughters isn't far from the healing process for more mature women with absent fathers. "Talk to her," Iyanla tells the woman. "Ask her how it feels. Ask her what she tells herself as a result of her daddy not being there."
Iyanla also stresses the importance of letting a young daddyless daughter express her emotions and cry if she needs to. "Sit there and let her weep on your shoulder," Iyanla advises. "Give her permission to cry. Don't tell her, 'Don't cry, baby, it's going to be OK.' It's not going to be OK for a while. And she can go ahead and cry about it."
Oprah adds, "And don't make up excuses for her father."
Iyanla agrees. "In your healing, you've got to tell the truth," she says. "Please hear me: If you knew he wasn't father material and if you knew he wasn't husband material and you had a baby by him anyway, you've got to clean that up in you so you can't shift the energy out of your life or you'll hold her hostage."