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TherapistJen
TherapistJen, LCSW, CPC
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1816
Experience:  Licensed Master Social Worker. Certified Coach Mom of Twins.
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I certainly believe it is unusual and would be viewed as inappropriate

Resolved Question:

I certainly believe it is unusual and would be viewed as inappropriate by most people that a father and his nearly 16- year- old daughter have "tickle fests" among the other ways that they horse around and show affection toward each other. Both of them seem to find it very funny and either of them will initiate it. They are both extremely ticklish and flop around like fish on land when they start to be tickled. It's the kind of tickling that I always considered torture myself, but clearly they do not. Knowing them both quite well, the harm I believe that this may be causing is that it is infantilizing (although that is not quite the word since it's more the kind of thing you see adults do with toddlers on up to say 11?) But I do witness this regular swing from the father and daughter being very affectionate and playful together, including the ticking, to the father being, in my opinion very demanding that his daughter be more responsible. At any rate, she is starting to "talk back" sometimes and gets very overwhelmed with all of her responsibilities and may end up going to her room to cry. Then I see her looking to get back in his favor, be daddy's little girl again. I'm amazed that she has not put up her own boundries yet around the tickling and I've been assuming she will soon. She is a "late bloomer"; she just got her period about a year ago and is just now showing some very shy interest in boys. But I wonder if her need to have a way to stay close to her increasingly demanding father isn't what keeps her interested in this tickle play and if this is harmful for her development. I also think, while he wants his daughter to start growing up in many ways, her father also wants her to remain his "little girl." I don't think he's realized until just recently that she is attractive to boys (he thinks of her as a skinny little girl, but she's starting to fill out more.) He seems to be oblivious to the fact that many people who don't know the 2 would raise an eyebrow if they saw how he tickles his daughter and wonder about incest. Maybe if it were just ticking feet they would just see it as childish, but it includes belly, underarms, and neck. I think he just doesn't realize she is not a little girl anymore.

What is your opinion on this and if you think it is harmful, do you have advice on how he could stop this without her feeling any embarrassment, shame or rejection about it?

I am a long-time friend. The father is a single day.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  TherapistJen replied 2 years ago.

CoachJenK :

Hi. Welcome. I am a Licensed Master Social Worker with more than 20 years experience working with individuals and families. I am also a mom of Twins.

CoachJenK :

I think that you have said many important things here and one is that he is a single Dad and he may feel all the things you suggest and a loss of the closeness as she gets older.


 

CoachJenK :

I am also in agreement with you that at this age that boundary should be better maintained and the touching of the body and flopping around on the floor is a bit past the "normal" boundary for her age.


 

CoachJenK :

and his as well. It seems clear that he is having some needs met around this on some emotional level but as you can see when he is harsh and demanding she gives over and may feel the only way he loves her is if she lets him touch her body in this way.


 

CoachJenK :

you are a friend of his? Does she live with him full time? Where is her mother?


 

CoachJenK :

sorry I lost my internet connection for a minute. I am here now


 

Customer:

Thank you for the confirmation that this tickling is inappropriate at this age. Because you may need more info to offer advice on how to end this tickling without shaming or hurting the daughter I will add that she lives with her mother in a larger household half of the time and with her father half of the time. Her mother has seen them tickle each other and rolls her eyes and says "I don't know how you 2 can stand that" and has warned the father that others would see it as odd at best, XXXXX XXXXX long as her daughter seems to like it, she's ok with it in private.

CoachJenK :

well we dont know if the daughter is okay with it or if she feels she must in order for him to pay attention to her.


 

CoachJenK :

If your friendship is with him and you believe you can speak to him about this delicate manner then you might just want to let him know that now that she is developing it may be a good idea to pull back on the tickling. You know how he loves her but maybe there are more appropriate ways to show his love rather than having his hands on her body.


 

CoachJenK :

do you feel it is abuse?


 

CoachJenK :

and if you do, I would also suggest speaking with her mother.


 

CoachJenK :

and if it is something they need to keep private as you say then that high


lights further that on some level everyone knows and is colluding with this behavior that is overstepping of the boundaries.

CoachJenK :

I can say that if it were my daugt


er being tickled that way by her father at that age, i would be putting a stop to it....that is my opinion. Others might disagree but I have pretty strong boundaries on kids and touching and the time that should end.

CoachJenK :

are you still with me?


 

CoachJenK :

I hope you aren't having technical issues while trying to respond.


 

Customer:

Yes, this is one of my concerns that whether or not she is aware of it, she has not set up boundaries for fear of losing his love or even for fear of him feeling rejected (her lonely, single dad--although he seems to have a serious girlfriend now whom the daughter adores. By the way, I'm amazed at the lack of jealousy the daughter shows toward this woman. I think the daughter is relieved that her dad has someone else in his life and she likes the woman.)


 


I do not feel it is abuse. I think he will listen to me because I've already brought it up once, but I didn't have my argument well thought out. He was unsure that it was harmful, but he did want to know if it was. The problem of course , is that you can't just ask the daughter; she may not know. I talked with the girlfriend who was also troubled by just this one behavior between them. Neither of us thinks there is a hint of abuse, simply a father who is having trouble letting go of his little girl and figuring out how to relate to a teenager. I think helping him find other ways to maintain some emotional closeness will help. I wanted to get clearer on my thoughts before broaching the subject again. Fortunately, he has agreed to family therapy on his girlfriends request now that she is moving in with them. She says she will not let it go, but wanted me to be the first to talk to him because he can't claim I am jealous of his relationship with his daughter. Because I am not friends with her mother-to put it mildly and consider her to be emotionally unstable and verbally abusive to her children, I have not thought it wise to talk with her.

CoachJenK :

ok well you sound quite with it. I would suggest that you come from a place of love with him and let him know how you see how special there relationship is, but that this behavior may be a bit out of bounds now that she is really maturing and it may not have any detrimental effect that you are aware of but it could just be a confusion of the boundaries and the roles.

CoachJenK :

If the daughter feels it is the way they connect then you are correct in thinking she wont be able to answer in any other way than to say it is fine.


 

CoachJenK :

you can also empathize with how tough it is to see his little girl grow up and he wants her to still be daddy's little gir and she will always be that but in new ways of connecting.

Customer:

Thank you.

TherapistJen, LCSW, CPC
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1816
Experience: Licensed Master Social Worker. Certified Coach Mom of Twins.
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TherapistJen
TherapistJen
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Licensed Master Social Worker. Certified Coach Mom of Twins.