Raising Daughters: Tips for Enhancing the Mother-Daughter Relationship
Raising girls who feel valued in a society that portrays the feminine in less than desirable terms can be a real challenge. These tips are great reminders and relationship builders for mother and daughter pairs, although with some healthy forethought they can also be used successfully by fathers:
1. Keep communication open and flowing
Communication is such an important piece of building any relationship and is critical to the parent-child relationship. Despite this, when my daughter was in that pre-teen stage she started pulling away and acting like someone I didn’t like. I really believed she was the problem and a piece of me even bought into the idea that this stage was unavoidable. As we drifted further apart I realized that I was giving in to a societal belief about tween girls and not following my heart.
I scheduled an appointment with my eye-rolling daughter so we could sit down and have a very open heart to heart. I told her I’d never been a mother of a tween girl before and that I really didn’t know what I was doing much of the time. I found out I was at least half of the problem (correcting her, giving her tasks when she entered the room, sharing unsolicited advice) and that what she really needed from me was acceptance, information and honest communication. I shifted on that day from mother to mentor and what a difference it has made.
To help with these ‘open-discussion’ moments it can be helpful to set up a Girl’s Club where no topic is off limits and no repercussions from what is shared will be experienced. This gives your daughter the opportunity to verify what her friends are saying, gain access to your wealth of knowledge (without a lecture) and provides an opportunity to find out that you really don’t know all the answers.
Sharing your experiences with your daughter does not ‘plant ideas’ or give her permission to make the same mistakes you did – it simply opens the door to trust and openness between you.
2. Talk freely about negative stereotyping
Openly discussing how females are portrayed in movies, magazines, on billboards and so on, increases connection, self-awareness and opens the door to some great discussions.
One activity you can do with your daughter is to look through magazines and talk about who looks happy, who looks real, speculate on why they are not happy, etc. When my daughter and I had these conversations it led us to a discussion about her Bratz dolls, teenage behaviours in shows and of course to Barbie.
Dove provides some videos on the lengths the media will go – removing blemishes, changing hair, altering facial features and even lengthening necks – in an effort to create natural beauty! This sets women up to strive for an unachievable version of beauty as if it were physically possible. Talking to your daughter about this can prevent eating disorders, self-esteem issues and make you the ‘go-to’ person for important information.
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Another great topic to discuss is the Divine Feminine and how this beautiful energy – required by all of us to live a balanced life – has been downplayed and portrayed as weak and undesirable.
You can search together for information on this topic and enjoy the beautiful, positive impact it can have on both your lives. In a nutshell the Divine Feminine is what allows us to gracefully receive, to connect with others, to fully embrace pleasure and to be nurturing to others. It’s a huge topic and one totally worth learning more about.
3. Focus on loving and accepting your daughter as she is
When you love someone unconditionally, you accept who they are even when they are not behaving exactly how you would like them to. You will not always agree with your daughter and at times may really dislike the way she is behaving. Being her parent, it is always within your rights to set boundaries and provide guidance. Just do this while still accepting and loving your daughter for who she is.
Recognize your very real responses to your daughter as she moves through different stages. When you don’t like the way she is behaving ask yourself – is this a safety issue or morally threatening? If yes, enforce your boundaries without attacking her as a person and stand strong in your decision. If no (which is often the case), allow her the space to be who she is, make her own mistakes and live through the consequences.
You won’t always like or relate to the way she is behaving or choices she is making, but you can allow her the space to fully live her experience without fear of rejection or ridicule from her strongest support.
Put your energy into focusing on what you have in common and enjoy those things together. Set up a spa day – either at a spa or in your own home. Enjoy face masks, hair treatments, body scrubs, pedicures – all of which can be done on a very limited budget. Go for a walk, play a game, bake or create a meal together. Search for the thing both of you will willingly participate in and make it happen.
Use this time to talk to your daughter about what is going on in her world and share some of the stories you remember from that time in your life. This is not an interrogation or lecture, but an opportunity to really connect and build something special.
When you spend time with your daughter and keep the communication open and flowing you will find that your relationship flourishes rather than drifting apart at a time when you really want your guidance to be effective.