Outside of the DadsTalking crew, I’m the CEO at Digital Shepherds, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help parents cross the digital divide and educate children about the dangers inherent in the use of modern day mobile and computer technology (cyberbullying, sexting, sextortion, etc.). In my work, speaking directly to students from elementary up through high school, I get the chance to meet with and talk to so many young ladies who’ve sent bikini pictures, or worse, to boys in what amounts to a plea to be liked. In some cases, these girls are sending these pictures to their boyfriends as early as 6th grade (I’ve actually had some admit this to me personally) which is ten or eleven years old. These experiences lead to the idea to start a national movement to encourage dads to spend more quality time with their daughters, communicating their significance in an effort to combat what I and many others in the internet safety space are seeing. Although legislation, or the question of legislation, is a hot topic right now, we still have to deal with the root of this problem which is often the disconnect between daughter and dad. Often, when a girl feels valued by her father, she doesn’t go seeking that value in her male peers. A strong, healthy relationship with dad is a good indicator of emotional health and many other markers in young girls and one of the best ways to connect with our daughters is to take time to just sit and listen to them. Listen and engage them right where they “live,” so to speak, and any observant parent can see girls holding “tea parties” with dolls and stuffed animals or other makeshift parlor discussion type scenarios with dolls or stuffed animals which brings us to the National Daddy Daughter Tea. The personal emails and DMs on Twitter in response to my original post HERE is what ultimately set this in motion last year.
The idea is simple: Two days in May, dads will unite in what is, I believe, an event of the utmost importance to the emotional health of our daughters. If you’re tired of hearing news reports about sexting and cyberbullying and the victimization of our young women then join the movement! All you have to do that day is take your daughter to tea and we’ve even given you two options.
1. If you’re involved in your school’s PTA, ask them to host a morning event Friday, May 13th. You put up flyers, get other dads involved and sit down and do a communal “tea” (what you drink is not so important as showing up) starting before school at 7:30 AM and lasting for 45 minutes.
2. Take your daughter to tea Saturday, May 14th. Check the Facebook fan page to see if there is a tea being hosted by another dad in your area and double the fun! If not, just simply strike out on your own with your princess and begin a new chapter in your relationship.
If you want to host an event in your area, make the arrangements at your local Starbucks, or tea house and email us at info (at) digitalshepherds (dot) com and we will add you to an ongoing list of locations. If you wish to be involved, but don’t have a daughter or aren’t able to make it, please support our cause by tweeting about it once a day until the event, “Like” our Facebook fan page and invite your friends to join it, blog about it and point people to the fan page or all of the above if you’re feeling really generous!
Ultimately it is my hope that you’ll invite some dads you know who may not have done this type of thing on their own; you know, guys who may be too “macho.” In addition, daughters who might think this type of thing “lame” will be encouraged by seeing other dads and other daughters and be encouraged to strengthen their own communication and relationship. Bottomline, in my mind, we get more daughters and dads better connected means the potential to get more daughters better protected which means, potentially, less boys “sexted” because less young ladies walk around with a deep sense of having been rejected by the most important man in their lives…YOU DAD!
What’s a “Daddy daughter tea” anyway? And how do I do that?
“Tea,” or more commonly, tea time, is just that, a time to sit down, slow down and just enjoy drinking some tea and having conversation. It can be done at home or at a tea house. If traveling to a tea house, make sure to call ahead of time because some actually require a reservation or have certain hours scheduled throughout the day for tea time.
Variety is the spice of life and many cultures have traditional tea houses. You might go to a Japanese tea house, or a British tea house, or maybe even an Ethiopian tea house. The location is up to you and your daughter. I let mine choose, so it’s kind of like a game for us. We get to go around the world through tea houses. Some tea houses serve full meals, while others serve only tea, small sandwiches and deserts. If you’re going to go to a traditional British tea parlor which serves the latter, I suggest you eat first. Your growling stomach will thank you for it.
We’ve seen it on TV shows, in commercials, and maybe even in our own homes. It’s Saturday morning and what is your daughter doing? Why, she has her dollies all set around the table with her tea set and they’re having tea. She’s engaged in heavy, imaginary conversation with her “guests” and loving it. Face it dad, one of the awesome tools for connecting with your daughter is verbal communication and a great place for it is at tea. You can do this at home, but what I’m suggesting in this post is to take her out for tea. You can achieve a couple things with this. Taking your Princess out makes tea time special and as your daughter gets older you can use the tea time tradition as a “safe place” of sorts. The restaurant is a “neutral”setting where you daughter may feel more comfortable telling you some things which she isn’t quite so sure about your reaction. A daughter may understand that there are consequences for her actions, but setting up a tea time as a safe place for her to tell you things which may, in some cases, get you a little heated may actually get you to where you want to be…in a place where she feels that she can confide in you without being judged or immediately scolded. In a place where she feels that she will just be listened to by the man who’s supposed to be helping her navigate the complexities of life. It may be difficult at times, but temper yourself and allow tea time to be a time where she’s heard, no matter the conversation.
If you’re going to hit Google for info, first try typing the city name you’re going to be looking at, along with the search terms “tea room” or “tea house.” Besides Google, some of my favorite resources on the web for finding tea houses are:
Yelp is a great site because it also gives you user generated reviews of the tea houses you’re looking at. TeaMap and TeaGuide are tea lovers’ portals. You can find valuable articles about tea there as well as locations in your town to have it.
That should be enough to get you through your first tea time with your daughter. Just remember that the most important part of your afternoon together is that you be an outstanding listener. She’s the star and you, her captive audience. If she has any problems or concerns that she opens up to you about, don’t immediately jump into “fix it” mode! Just listen. The issue may not require fixing and she just be looking to vent. Play your cards right and you could set yourself up to be her safe place to vent for many years to come! I know you may be thinking “Yay! I get to be her sounding board. And man can she ‘sound.’” True, but when those tween and teen years are in full swing, the inside information you become privy to is priceless and can serve as building blocks for teachable moments and a strong relationship for life.
Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dottiemae/5342677857/