To say that mother-daughter relationships are complex is an understatement. Moms are often confused and frustrated by how their teenage daughter can be so affectionate and dependent upon them one minute, and so angry and rejecting the next. Teens are going to test authority, push boundaries, and vacillate between wanting more independence and being a bit afraid of it. Here are a few helpful suggestions for improving communication:
1. Try not to explode just because your daughter does. Human impulse is often to react in the moment – stop yourself if you can. Take a deep breath. Leave the room if you need to. Remember that your daughter isn’t going to have the same level of maturity or emotional control as an adult. That doesn’t mean that her behavior is acceptable, but it does mean that you should be the one to model more appropriate reactions for her. In the heat of an argument neither of you will be capable of truly hearing what the other is saying. Nothing meaningful can be accomplished until you both have a chance to calm down.
2.You’re human and you’re going to make mistakes. It’s difficult not to react when you are angry or upset, particularly when you are feeling frustrated, stressed, or overwhelmed. If you find that you do react in a less than positive way that’s okay. Recognize it, apologize if you were somehow out of line, and talk about it later. Kids have a lot of respect for parents who aren’t afraid to say, “I’m sorry.”
3. Be your daughter’s parent, not her friend. This means providing guidance , boundaries, rules, and discipline. Being a parent also means ensuring that you are not looking to your daughter to solve for your own emotional needs for friendship. There are some things in your life that may not be appropriate for you to share with your child, and the same rule applies to them. Respecting each other’s boundaries is important.
4. Try to approach your daughter with genuine empathy and a desire to understand her feelings and perspective. Also work on being more comfortable agreeing to disagree. It’s a normal and healthy part of relationships.
5. Stick to the here and now when discussing difficult topics or in the middle of an argument. When talking about past events try to keep the focus on what can be learned from it and how to move forward. Rehashing your daughter’s past “screw-ups” can sometimes do little more than elicit feelings of guilt and shame, which won’t necessarily help her make better choices next time.
6. Parents are often afraid to give their teen the benefit of the doubt, and often with good reason. That being said, do give your teen the chance to pleasantly surprise you and make sure you recognize and encourage signs of maturity and responsibility when you see it.