I have a vivid memory of holding my newborn baby girl, rocking her late into the night, staring at her chubby face and thinking that she and I will be best friends forever. Flash forward to today and one might now find me in the late hours of the night googling the realities of demons actually being able to take over bodies, because surely that is what is going on with my teenage daughter…right?
There is something magical about the idea of a strong mother/daughter bond. Many people crave it or grieve because they don’t have it. Whether you consider your relationship with your mother/daughter to be strong or weak, there is always room to strengthen it and connect on deeper more meaningful levels. Below five simple ways to help strengthen your relationship with your daughter, helping you to thrive rather than survive the teenage years.
Many mothers and daughters are simply not communicating. When was the last time that you sat down with your daughter and really talked to her about her day, her life, her dreams and goals, with the purpose of truly gaining an understanding of who she is. Find ways to spend time with your daughter. This will create communication opportunities. Go for a walk, cook a meal together, go shopping, anything that you and her can enjoy together. As you laugh, and talk you become connected through joy. As the connection is strengthened communication becomes more natural, allowing you both to feel comfortable discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Are You Even Listening to Me?
This may be a statement that we say as adults to children, but more times than not our daughters are wondering the same thing. Through your example you can teach your daughter the powerful skill of active listening. This skill will not only strengthen your and her relationship, but it will also benefit her in every other relationship that she has.
Active listening techniques include: building trust and establishing rapport, demonstrating concern, paraphrasing and repeating back what you are hearing, demonstrating nonverbal cues which show understanding, such as nodding, eye contact, or leaning forward and lastly affirmations like “I see” or “I understand”. As you practice active listening pay close attention to the feelings underlying the message, this is often the real message. Active listening allows us to connect and understand each other on a deeper level. Through genuinely listening you are showing your daughter that she is worthy of your time. In that moment she will feel that she is more important to you then whoever is texting you, or that mountain of laundry that is piled on the floor.
Repair Because You Care
People in healthy relationships don’t avoid conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any type of relationship, so practice dealing with the conflict head on. The sooner you address the conflict issue with your daughter, the less time there is for feelings of anger, frustration or resentment to keep building. Avoiding conflict will not only weaken your relationship, but it will also cement a pattern of not resolving conflict for your daughter. Teaching your daughter how to address conflict gives her the tools necessary to have tough uncomfortable conversations without being afraid. It exemplifies unconditional love and tells her that you respect her and value your relationship with her, even if you are arguing for the fourth time that week!
This Is Me
During this adolescent stage, your daughter will be at war with herself trying to discover who she is. She is starting to build her own identity and differentiate herself from those around her. Sometimes teenage girls think that in order to become their own person they must either completely cut off from their mothers, or the relationship is so enmeshed that the daughter is frozen in fear when thinking about making any type of decision without her mother’s input. Both ways are detrimental. During this time help your daughter to find her voice and gain the confidence that she needs to speak her truth. When you and your daughter disagree on something, rather than becoming angry and defensive, apply active listening and show her that her thoughts and opinions as an individual matter. The bottom line is that you and your daughter can still have a close relationship without having to be the exact same type of person with the exact same type of thoughts, interests, and opinions.
Take the time to step back and evaluate the way that you are handling and contributing to the relationship with your daughter. This allows for you to be honest with yourself and to evaluate what is and is not working. Once you have identified some areas that you can improve on, be brave enough to be vulnerable with your daughter and discuss your weaknesses or the reasons why you may have been so triggered in a certain argument with her. Then ACT! Start putting in the effort to make the changes the relationship needs. Just as you would want your daughter to reflect on her actions and the way that she is treating you, humble yourself to do the same.
You can begin to implement these five simple ideas today! As you do so you will begin to see changes in your relationship with your daughter and you will be on a path towards a stronger connection and bond with her. If at any point you find that you and your daughter are stuck with issues from the past or can’t seem to change poor communication habits, you may need some extra help in breaking and understanding these patterns. If this is the case, seek out the help of a therapist and let them assist you on your journey of creating the relationship that you both desire and deserve.
By Brandi Hess, AMFT