We become strong when we exercise, and I don’t know if it can get any more basic than that. In fact, you may be wondering why I chose to waste space to even share that point. I shared it because I want us to remember it’s important and simple. When we exercise, we become stronger. Now, I have a question for you: why do so many of experience weak relationships with our loved ones? Come on, you know what a weak relationship is: one where patience is absent and discipline is distant. One where your interactions are marked by outbursts and your time together is tense. One where you tiptoe around important conversations and demonstrate passive aggressive anger when you’ve got the opportunity. Weak relationships run amuck in our society and, more importantly, in our homes, and it’s time for us to get it together!
Healthy relationships may be important and simple, but neither important nor simple is equal to easy. Growing up, I rarely talked to my mother about important subjects. We had a very dissatisfying relationship that was marked by my disrespectful attitude and temperamental outbursts. As a daughter, I wanted more. I envied my friends’ relationships with their mothers, and I wanted to laugh and talk to my mom too, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid to share my feelings because I was convinced they would come back to haunt me and I would be even more restricted than I already was. Besides, she just didn’t seem to understand anything! Our lack of connectivity and meaningful conversation spiraled into deceit and loneliness on my part, which led to a loss of trust. Unfortunately, losing her trust only slightly bothered me because we had a very shallow connection, and I hate to see the same going on in the girls and their mothers whom I mentor today. Hear me when I say HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS TAKE WORK!
Connection is built on empathy, and it’s a great starting place for moms and daughters. If you’re a facilitator, I suggest planning an activity during which moms and daughters can begin to engage in dialogue about what they’re feeling. Don’t stop there though, give the other a chance to respond! Provide a list of questions for the one who is sharing to ask, such as, “Have you ever felt like that?” Sometimes, we fail to connect simply because we fail to see the similarities we have in common in a positive light through healthy conversation.
- Set guidelines to follow during these times together, such as, “We won’t interrupt the other.” Afraid of one person taking too much time? Set a timer or use a signal to show that you’d like to speak.
- Handle one emotion or situation at a time. It’s important that you, Mom, initiate the interaction and also reminds Daughter that this is a safe place and she won’t be penalized for sharing. It’s important to create a platform so that your daughter knows she can come to you.
- Daughter gets to respond when and how she chooses. This part may be harder to enforce because you have to share some of the control. Your daughter may want to respond immediately as you talk. She may be defensive at first and she may rush to prove her point because she finally feels as if she’s got the chance. This is your time to listen so that you can learn what’s been bothering her to facilitate relationship so that she doesn’t always have to run to someone else. On the other hand, she may be hesitant to share or downright refuse.Keep the conversation open by offering her a notebook to write in that you can read apart from one another and take time to process your thoughts prior to responding.
- Choose a safe word that you can use during stressful times or arguments. Sometimes, it’s just better to cool down before continuing to stress and fight. Show your daughter how to handle her emotions so that she can succeed at school too. Remember, the important part is returning to the conversation when you’re calmer so that you can finish the matter.
- Continue communicating so that you, Mom, can be seen as a resource: someone who is safe, wise, and loving.
My mother and I fought for our relationship. Today, we are best friends and there’s no one (second to my husband) whom I’d rather spend time with. The tween and teen years can be tough, but if you choose to confront the issues, you’ll experience healthy mother-daughter relationships too. Please remember that these conversations are not used to punish your daughter. They are used to open lines of communication so that you can influence her decisions in big and small matters alike.