Curfews, makeup, training bras, real bras, mood swings, BOYS!… Raising kids as a single parent is never easy, but raising a teenage daughter as a single dad?

Well, that can be frustrating at best and sheer torture at worst. From boyfriends and prom dresses to teen angst, drugs and alcohol, navigating those teen girl waters isn’t easy for a grown man. If you’re hoping to make life a little more predictable (and maybe a tad less volatile), here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

Expect the unexpected

You’re well into the teenage years. You think you know what to expect by now. Well… forget it. Life with a teenage daughter is unpredictable. Moods are a great example of this. She’ll cry or scream one second, then become chirpy and excited the next. You get a warm hug after a lecture one day, then she shouts at you when you express your concern for her safety the next. But don’t worry.

Remember, there are no rules to remember. Go with the flow Pops. Just do what you see as best in any given situation and don’t worry about the reaction. The key for me is staying calm and trying not to look bewildered all the time. She doesn’t need to know you think she’s a wingnut.

The look I always get … “Really Dad?”

Land the helicopter

As a father, it’s your natural instinct to be overprotective, especially when it comes to daughters. But if that helicopter is hovering a little too close lately, you’re running a dangerous game. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re solving her problems all the time – particularly if there’s not a mother there for counterbalance. And you’re raising a budding adult; you want her to learn to resolve problems herself. She needs to learn to stand on her own two feet and confidently face the challenges that life throws her way. Of course, keep her out of harm’s way, but have faith in her ability to make the right decisions. As long as you’re there for her, it’s okay to give her a little freedom.

Uncomfortable? Stick around.

Teen girl topics probably aren’t your cup o’ tea. It’s easy to avoid uncomfortable subjects with your daughter (think relationships and bodily changes). But as difficult as it is, never hesitate to share advice with her – especially about relationships. The fact is, you have a very important perspective when it comes to boys, having been one yourself. While you may or may not want to dive too deep into the subject, you need to at least talk to her about keeping it safe and avoiding bad decisions she may later regret.

And hey, none of us want to talk about those bodily changes. If her mother isn’t around, try to get a sister or a friend to help you out. Trust me, she wants to talk to you about her body about as much as you want to talk to her about it. My daughter constantly reminds me that “you don’t know what it’s like DAD!!!”  The worst thing you can do? Ignoring it altogether. Get someone in there to handle it.

Stop solving all the problems

Communication is key in any relationship. With your daughter, she’s not always looking for you to solve her problems. Most men tend to listen long enough to identify the problem, and then we are off, on to the solution. Our daughters would rather we listen for understanding and let them work out solutions.

Keeping the lines of communication open requires time, patience and a willingness to make it a priority.

From my own experience, I have found that staying engaged on some of the more trivial topics (who’s mad at who, which of her friends are most annoying, etc.) makes my daughter to be more inclined to share more serious topics (there’s a new boy I like, my friends are doing hard drugs, etc.).

Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to

Most dads understand the importance of a female mentor in the lives of our daughters. For some, a grandmother, aunt or other family member can assume that role. For others, it’s the mom of a friend his daughter’s age, maybe a church youth leader, coach or counselor. Regardless, finding a strong and capable female role model is critical to your daughter’s development.

The moral of the story for me is don’t try too hard to be the perfect father (mainly because there is no such thing). It feels like I’m always making mistakes and I have a tendency to beat myself up about it. What I am finding to be of utmost importance is to just be there for her whenever I can, wherever I can. No amount of “I love you” can replace your presence. I believe love is a verb, not a noun.

As has been chronicled numerous times, you won’t really understand the impact you made, until years down the road. Hopefully, I’m still alive….