The relationship between a mother and daughter is special, but can become challenging during the teenage years — after all, the adolescent brain is going through many changes. If you’re a mum, here’s how to get through this sometimes-rocky patch with your relationship stronger than ever.
The teenage years can be tough for both mothers and their daughters. The teenage brain experiences an influx of testosterone and oestrogen hormones which rewire the emotional processing areas. This chemical process in your teenage daughter’s brain may make her more prone to arguments, sulking, sadness, anger or a desire to be distant from the family.
It’s also common for teenage girls to be figuring out their identity and who they belong with. This process takes a lot of their energy and focus and can make them appear irritable at times.
Understandably, it can be a trying time for a mother-daughter relationship. But there are plenty of strategies for coping through this time to ensure a healthy, happy relationship lives on into adulthood for both women.
1. Put yourself in their shoes before arguing
Often teenage daughters feel overly criticised by their mothers, which feels unfair to them when they’re trying to be independent.
On the other hand, mothers feel that their daughters refuse to listen to their advice or instructions, and instead make poor choices. They also often wish their daughters would spend more time with them.
Before arguing, consider what your daughter might be feeling, and try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager. Often your teen’s experience isn’t personal — they are just being a teenager.
You could also explain where you are coming from to your daughter, and help them understand your viewpoint.
Mothers can plan to have quality time with their daughters but leave the decision-making on the venue or activity to the daughter to show you value their independence.
2. Have realistic expectations, and communicate them often
Create realistic rules and expectations of your daughter, and communicate them regularly. Invite your daughter to give you an explanation or reasoning for the rules, establishing which are non-negotiable but adding areas where flexibility is an option. For example, you might agree that staying out past 10:00pm is a no-go, but spending time with her friends during the day is fine.
Treating her as a budding adult can be helpful and demonstrate that you respect her views, within reason.
3. Be open about your needs
Often conflict arises when one or both of your needs aren’t being met. Work out what you need from your relationship with your daughter and then communicate it openly. For example, you may feel that you aren’t being listened to, or your rules aren’t being respected.
Expressing these to your daughter could sound something like, “I would appreciate it if you listened to me and my perspective before we talk about what’s going on for you”.
4. Ask them about their needs
Miscommunication happens when we assume we know what someone else needs. Ask her about her needs before jumping in to try and solve the problem. If your daughter comes to you with an issue, you could ask, “Are you looking for me to just listen, or try and fix the problem with you?”
You could also try a technique known as “Emotion Coaching” — a process of helping children understand the different emotions they experience, why they occur, and how to handle them.
A big part of this process is learning to listen to your child with empathy and understanding.
5. Create a relationship of trust
Some experts say you don’t need to be a ‘best friend’ to your teenager. This is true to an extent, but the flip side is isolating her so much she feels afraid to disclose important information to you. At the very least, you need to build a relationship of trust so that she can come to you when she needs to.
Often, the toughest part of this is keeping your temper in control and reacting to her news in a neutral manner. Lead by example and showcase how an adult would respond to negative issues, helping her trust you genuinely ‘have her back’. You can calmly explain why you disapprove of the behaviour later, once you first and foremost establish you’re here to support her.
Building a relationship of trust usually involves compromise on both sides. By putting yourself in their shoes, checking your expectations and being open about both of your needs, you’ll be on your way to building a stronger, happier relationship with your teenage daughter. Sometimes, seeking professional help through counselling can also be helpful in smoothing over arguments that lead to hurtful comments made on both sides.
If you feel like you need extra support to help with your relationship with your daughter, consider speaking with one of our counsellors.