September 07, 2023

By Brittinae Phillips


I still remember the awkward silence that filled the room when I first asked my father about relationships. It's a silence that many of us might be familiar with. As students gear up for another school year amidst the flurry of preparations, topics that often remain shrouded in silence are healthy relationships and sex.

Growing up, my mother was the primary source of information on relationships and sex, which is still a common trend. We had in-depth conversations on birth control, consent, and respect between partners. However, when I began having sexual relationships, my mother's disappointment made further discussions challenging. My father took a less active role in all these discussions, though he did his best. I wish I could have openly discussed more about sex, relationships, and love with both parents growing up, especially my father. Having a male perspective may have given me a different outlook on relationships and provided insight into how some guys think.


Many parents express discomfort discussing sex and relationships, often hoping their kids abstain from both until adulthood. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey data reveals that 34% of Black high school students have engaged in sexual activities. It may be tempting to avoid these “awkward” conversations before they return to schools and campuses, but as kids’ most trusted resource, parents should be committed to sharing their values while understanding that their kids will make their own choices.

Recently, there has been growing recognition of the importance of fathers being more actively engaged in open, supportive discussions that build strong bonds with their children, particularly their daughters. Through my work with parents and teens, I know that father figures who don’t shy away from talks about relationships, periods, and birth control build stronger ties with their daughters.

According to Ohio State University research (2018), young women who reported healthy relationships with their fathers were less likely to become clinically depressed, anxious, develop eating disorders, or be dissatisfied with their appearance. Here are a few ways to normalize questions, concerns, and curiosities about sex and relationships.

Dad and Daughter Dynamics

Offer a male perspective. When your daughter asks questions about flirting, affection, or desire, topics she is definitely talking about with her peers, dads should give honest advice without judgment. Remember, this is a test of trust – your daughter wants to know that she can rely on you rather than you reacting to her behavior.

Build her confidence. Dads who get defensive or overprotective about their daughters’ relationships could eat away at any confidence-building efforts from both parents. Instead of resorting to threats like “If he hurts you, I’ll hurt him!”, help your daughter set boundaries and explore her feelings for someone while letting her know you will always support her.

Be appropriately transparent about your own relationship. Dads can talk all day about how a man should treat a woman, but daughters often choose partners based on what’s modeled by their parents. Be sure your daughter sees and hears your care and affection toward your partner.

While maintaining an open dialogue with both parents is crucial, having a father figure can positively influence a daughter's self-esteem and perspective on healthy relationships, including sexual behavior. However, it's essential to remember that you're not alone in navigating these topics. Healthy families can come in various forms, from single parents to same-sex couples, grandparents, or other guardians. The key is the willingness of any parent or guardian to engage in conversations about sex and relationships, as this plays a pivotal role in nurturing a well-informed, confident, and healthy adult.

Reach out to your local health department or family physician to answer your questions or concerns. You can also access a wealth of free, fact-based information on various topics by visiting

Brittinae Phillips is the Community Education Manager for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’

Black Health Initiative, managing community outreach and education for parents, college students, and youth.

Category: Opinion