inside: building a strong mother daughter relationship during the tween and teens year
My daugther walked into the kitchen after school and tossed her book bag on the table.
She sat down, shoulders hunched and let out a long sigh.
I glanced over, wondering for a moment what my next move should be.
These days it often felt like no matter what I did or said, it was the wrong thing. A simple “Hi. How was your day?” could send her off to her room in a huff or bring on a torrent of tears about mean girls, homework and the newest zit that appeared during 4th period.
It never used to be like this.
I missed my happy little girl. The one who greeted me after a day at school with bright smiles and big hugs. The one who shared her triumphs and troubles. The one that was always telling me about what she wanted to be for Halloween in January and how she was going to grow up and be a famous ballerina and a lawyer and eventually one day be president.
How did that little girl grow up so fast and when did her feet get as big as mine? Those are definitely NOT ballerina feet.
It was hard, this turning of the clock that seemed to tick just a bit quicker with each passing day. I wanted to fight it, but it often just meant fighting her. She was on her way to becoming an adult and now our relationship had to grow with her. It meant, like most of my adult relationships, it was going to require some work.
She was worth it.
So, I reached down into my mama heart and I came out with a new strategy.
She and I were not going to be besties. This time in her life was too important for that. She would have plenty of friends, but only one mom. I couldn’t let her down.
But I also didn’t want us to be constantly battling. I knew we could build a strong mother daughter relationship. One that would see us both weather these storms of adolescence and get us through in one piece to the other side.
5 Ways to Build an Unbreakable Mother Daughter Relationship
with Your Tween or Teen
Communication often feels like a one way street during adolescence. Our once talkative children who shared everything with us suddenly go silent. Or perhaps, like me, you’ve been blessed with a child who has more of a flare for dramatics. Then you may find yourself with a yelling and fuming hormonal Tasmanian devil swirling about your household.
Whatever packaging your tween or teen comes in, their mood swings, apathy and disrespectful attitudes can make you want to shake some sense into them. What most parents typically resort to instead is lectures. Boring, never ending, condescending lectures that our tweens and teens tune out at the 30 second mark.
It can also be tempting to dismiss them. Their worries and problems can often seem silly and trivial.
But whether your child is an open book or a book that is slammed shut and padlocked, here is the essential skill every parent of a tween or teen needs to learn.
I know, it’s blunt and direct and unfiltered, just like your tween and teen.
Kids this age often don’t talk to their parents, because they’re afraid.
Afraid of being judged, belittled or…. yep, that’s right LECTURED. It can also be because we tend to ask a lot of questions, questions for which they rarely have answers.
They don’t have it all figured out yet, but in many cases they don’t want us figuring it out for them. It’s not unlike when they were toddlers who used to meltdown with screams of “I do it!!” when we attempted help them put on their shoes or button their jackets. It could be so difficult (not to mention time consuming) to stand back and let they try, even if we knew they weren’t quite ready to do it all yet.
Now, we’ve entered a new stage of independence seeking, and it’s still hard to watch our children struggle. You’re going to want to jump in and solve their problems, but fight the urge to open your mouth and instead open your ears. What they need us to do in most situations is to simply listen.
When we show that kind of restraint and when they feel truly heard, it builds trust.
2. One on One Time
Trying to get a spot on her busy social calendar may be a challenge, but she does want to spend time with you. It’s just a matter of being open and grabbing the moments when they present themselves.
I’m not much of a runner, but when my daughter pokes her head in my room and says, “Mom, want to go for a run?” I know what she is really asking is, “Want to come spend some time with me?” It’s not my first choice, but you bet I set aside what I’m doing, even when it feels like I don’t have time, and lace up my old tennis shoes.
Open invitations are not going to come that often. So, sometimes you have to get creative in seeking out ways to spend time with her and strengthen your mother daughter relationship.
- Grab a donut together before school once a month
- Offer to get tickets for the movie you’ve both been dying to see on opening night
- Go for a short walk one night after dinner
- Cuddle up next to her for a few minutes before she goes to bed each night.
It’s about being intentional and finding those opportunities for one on one time together where you can talk (or she can talk and you can listen). In these no pressure moments, where fun or just hanging out is the main objective, you may find she is suddenly opening up to you about the really important stuff.
3. Take an Interest in Her Interests
You may not find the music she listens to particularly appealing and that reality show that she’s gotten sucked into may seem downright stupid. But building a bond is about bridging what feels like an ever widening chasm between you and her. One way to do this is to pay attention to what she’s into these days.
Notice the things she’s excited about and the ways she likes to spend her time. Then be open and willing to learn more.
Yes, this may even require a little googling on your part. Or you may find that she is more than willing to educate you. Ask her questions (just not too many), showing that you at least are a little clued in, and you might be surprised how she opens up.
If you and your daughter have shared interests, even better.
My daughter and I both love to read. So, I make a point of asking her for recommendations on the latest YA (young adult) novels that everyone is reading. Being able to talk about the characters and the different situations they face has been a subtle way to draw her into conversation on some pretty important topics. But since we’re talking about made-up people and not her or her friends directly it’s less threatening (if you’re not readers, this works well with TV shows too!)
Our tween and teen daughters often dismiss so much about us as being out of touch and old fashioned. Yet somehow we’ll find them constantly wanting to borrow everything from our cute teal tank top to our stylish leopard print flats or even our brand new silver feather pendant necklace.
Yes, the other day I went to put on one of the new necklaces I’d recently purchased and was not surprised to find it missing.
Suddenly with this purchase, my “hip mom” status went up a few notches. So, I jumped on this chance for a little mother/daughter bonding and let her raid my closet for other fun fashion finds. I didn’t make any comments about her choices, I just admired how she put her own personal flare on my wardrobe staples.
I also suggested we plan a mother/daughter shopping trip sometime soon, so she could help me update a few of my worn out older pieces. She enthusiastically agreed, probably knowing she would get a few new things in the bargain as well as the chance to borrow my new updates. Win/Win!
The open invitations to take part in our kids lives become fewer and fewer as they get older. Often moms and dads place a distant second to friends and romantic partners. Sometimes it may even feel like they’d rather spend time with the dog than with us.
This slow separation is typically not personal, it’s just our tweens and teens establishing their independence. Which like it or not is a step in the right direction to adulthood.
Be careful not be fooled though, this doesn’t mean they no longer need us. In fact, in some ways they need us more than ever. They still very much want our love, our approval and most importantly our presence.
Whether you have an athlete, a theatre lover, a star student, or a musician – wherever your child’s passions and interests lead them you should follow. This often means spending weekend after weekend at the soccer field or attending endless concerts and plays.
It can require driving them all over the city or sometimes the country for practices, tournaments and competitions. At these events, it is likely our children will barely acknowledge our existence and we may wonder why we’re even there.
But they know you are there and that is what counts.
As adults, many of the memories of our childhood become faded and blurred together. There are so many specifics we won’t recall, but what we will remember is time after time, searching for that familiar face in the crowd and always seeing it smiling back at us.
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