Over a year ago, we began blogging about our mother-daughter relationship through My Mother, My Daughter, My Friend (http://motherdaughterfriend.com). Now that we are both independent, adult women, we noticed a shift in the dynamics of our relationship that we wanted to explore. By writing about our issues from our unique perspectives, we revealed to each other our thoughts and feelings, which in turn, enabled us to interact in new ways that reflect love, respect and friendship.
People often ask us for tips on how to deal with their own mother-daughter struggles, and while we are always happy to share our thoughts, we don't profess to have all the answers. The mother-daughter relationship is fraught with challenges at every stage of life, and we still have our fair share of squabbles and misunderstandings. But what we have learned is to recognize potential barriers early, communicate openly and most importantly, make up with hugs and declarations of love and gratitude!
1. Find Common Interests: Spending relaxed time together while discovering common hobbies and interests helps deepen the mother-daughter bond. For example, we connect over yoga and almost always squeeze in a class when we are together. When we are apart, we chat on the phone about books we are reading.
Don't feel like you and your mother/daughter are interested in the same things? Then explore something that is new to both of you! Take a knitting class, rent a tandem kayak or go antique shopping. Carve out time to try a new activity that can bring you closer and create fun memories along the way.
2. Manage Your Moods: While many of us are strong and capable women, we most likely can remember a time when we have been irrational or temperamental, particularly with our mother or daughter. Unfortunately, we often save our worst moods and tempers for those we love.
We've learned to recognize each other's bad moods. We point it out and then give "the moody one" the space she needs. We're also learning how to recognize when our anger or criticism is misplaced so we can spare each other unnecessary heartache.
3. Give and Receive Thoughtful Advice: While we often value each other's advice, it can be difficult for mothers and daughters to be impartial, and feelings can be hurt if advice is not followed. Plus, for whoever is on the receiving end, advice can often feel like interference or criticism. Learn to welcome each other's insights without being dismissive; at the same time, give each other the freedom and support to trust our instincts, even when it means taking a different path.
4. Make Time to Connect: As daughters grow up and move away, our lives become separate and it is difficult to maintain our relationship when quick phone calls on the run become the norm. While phone calls, e-mails, and occasional texts are common ways we stay in touch, we have found that weekly "Skype dates" allow us to block out distractions and make time for meaningful conversation.
5. Fight Fair: Almost every mother-daughter duo has its own "hot button" - that one topic where you can't ever see eye to eye. Every time the topic surfaces, it gets the juices flowing and you can feel an argument looming.
While it's easy to let anger and emotional outbursts get the best of us, try to pause, breathe, and take time to consider your mother or daughter's point of view before defending yourself. Finding ways to be more empathetic - even if you disagree - can help you keep the peace and avoid hurt feelings.
6. Know How Much Time to Spend Together: If you have a strong mother-daughter relationship, you probably cherish the limited time you have together. However, if you're like us, you've learned that too much togetherness can bring on those petty little annoyances from long ago. The amount of mother-daughter time that's right may differ, but the important thing to remember is that the desire to separate once again is natural.
Mothers and daughters experience a continual push/pull - the longing to spend time together and the intuition to know when it's time to pull away again. That's healthy and makes an adult relationship balanced.
7. Uncover Mixed Signals: Combine the topic of body language with mothers and daughters and it conjures up visions filled with emotion: the sulking teenager, the finger-pointing mother, the full-of-love bear hug. We often make assumptions about what someone is thinking and feeling from their body language - and if the signals are misinterpreted, it can be as damaging to a mother-daughter relationship as misunderstood words.
Don't assume that you understand how the other is feeling by their posture, facial expression, or gesture -- rather, ask. Clear communication can help avoid misunderstandings.
8. Keep Your Lips Sealed: When the daughter is a child, she typically asks her mother to keep a secret, and later, when both mothers and daughters are adults, secrets can go both ways. Problems may occur when one asks the other not to tell family members about something they discussed. But, as in all important relationships, the ability to keep intimate discussions in confidence is critical to maintaining trust long-term. So, shhhhh!
9. Learn to Forgive: When feelings are hurt and emotions run high, it's often hard to forgive -- or ask for forgiveness. Rather than listening to the other person, validating their emotions and potentially apologizing, we tend to feel personally attacked and fight back with harsher words.
This pattern only causes more anger and hurt, ultimately taking us further away from a place where we can calm down and apologize for any pain that we caused each other. Saying we're sorry after an argument opens the door to candid conversation that allows us to better understand how our words and actions make each other feel.
10. Learn to Let Go: When daughters are young, letting go for mothers means sending her on the school bus for the first time or saying "yes" to sleepovers. When daughters are adults, the situations may be different -she's traveling solo or settling in a new city far away -- but the emotions for mom are the same: fear mixed with excitement.
Moms, temper your anxieties so that you don't transfer your fear onto your daughter and she understands you have confidence in her ability to take on new experiences. Daughters, understand that your mom's pesky inquiries and undue worrying is natural and a sign of love. Come to a meeting of the minds, and both of you get excited together for the change ahead!
Ellen Resnick and Jenna Gebel are co-authors of a blog, My Mother, My Daughter, My Friend where they examine different aspects of their mother-daughter relationship and celebrate their love for each other. (http://motherdaughterfriend.com)
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