I just got back from spending eight straight days with my 21-year-old daughter. I learned a lot! Mothers and daughters can have complex relationships, and ours is no different! The first four days we spent together resulted from some struggles she was having, and her asking for my help. (Of course, I dropped everything and went, because that’s what mamas do, amirite?) The second four days we spent on a previously planned girls trip to New York City. I hope you’ve been watching my Insta Story and Facebook Story for all the fun behind-the-scenes pics of our adventures! (Look for a detailed post on our trip next week.)
It was a lot of togetherness, for sure, but it was such a treat for me! As an empty nester, sometimes we don’t feel “needed” once our kids leave the nest, and it was so nice to know that she needed her mom once again. We had lots of great talks, shed a few tears, and even (yes!) exchanged a few irritable words. With two sons and only one daughter, I confess that I’m not an expert, but today I’m sharing what I learned and giving you five tips to help you build a strong, intimate relationship with your teen or adult daughter.
1. Make it About Her, Not You
You’re the older, wiser, more mature one, RIGHT? Keep that in mind! Even if your daughter is an adult with kids of her own, and even if you consider yourselves “best friends,” you need to remember that you are the mom and she is the daughter. She doesn’t want to hear you complain about your husband (her daddy) and how he snores/chews with his mouth open/has no clue how to use his iPhone, etc. Although she may be a great comfort to you in times of struggle, it’s likely that she will be the more emotionally needy one in the relationship. That’s okay! It allows you the blessing of being able to be the most unique friend and emotional support system for her. Her friends will come and go, but mamas are forever! You gave birth to her, and you know her inside and out.
By the way, my daughter is the only one of my kids who actually calls me “Mama.” (My boys call me “Mom.”) For Mother’s Day this year, she gave me this sweet ring to commemorate our relationship. It comes in silver and gold.
2. Be a Mirror
One of the most valuable things my daughter says I do for her is to remind her of things she’s said or done in the past. With all of the emotional and hormonal ups and downs we go through as women, it’s helpful to have someone remind us that no matter how intensely we feel at the present moment, one thing we know for sure is that our current feelings and circumstances will change! When Becca and I are discussing things, I sometimes gently ask her if she wants me to remind her of what she said the last time she was in a similar situation. (She always says yes!) Often she’s caught up in the emotions of the moment, and having me hold up a mirror (so to speak) and remind her of her own words from the past about a particular feeling or situation can be helpful.
I get that! My husband does this for me, and I’m so grateful.
3. Ask Good Questions
Becca is going to be a senior in college this year, and I remember how scary the thought of facing the “real world” was when I was her age. Our daughters may call it “adulting,” but it’s the same thing! This week brought lots of opportunities to ask big, broad, open-ended questions that paved the way for some really deep discussions. Here are a few things I asked her:
- What are you most excited about this year and what scares you the most?
- What would be your top five ideal jobs when you graduate? If you could write the scenario, what would it look like?
- Looking back on your college experience so far, what have been the most valuable things you’ve learned?
- What would you do differently if you could?
- What are the big things you’ve learned about yourself over the past year?
- How can I pray for you this year?
Even if your daughter is much older than mine, asking deep questions and really listening to the answers can build and strengthen your relationship in a powerful way.
4. Let Them Be the “Expert”
Whether your daughter is 13 or 33, I do not doubt that she is an “expert” on something! Is it fashion? Ask her to help you shop. Makeup?: Ask her to give you a makeover. Is it the iPhone and social media? Ask her to tutor you. Is she into fitness? Maybe you could take an exercise class together.
My daughter is an acting major, and she’s an accomplished singer and dancer as well. She knows about everything from Shakespeare to the ins and outs of making stage combat look believable. When we planned our trip to NYC, she wanted to see a bunch of Broadway shows, so we saw five in four days! She taught me multiple theater terms (Do you know what a “spike” is? I do!); patiently explained all kinds of details about singing (including the difference between belting, mixing, and legit); and even filled me in on all the behind-the-scenes gossip on the Broadway actors and actresses (since she follows all of them on Instagram!).
It was a win-win! She got to show off a bit, and I learned a lot! Her vast knowledge genuinely enhanced my theater-going experience.
5. Find Something to Admire, and Admire it
I’ve written before about the fact that no matter what the age of our kids, what we do and say as parents still means the world to them. (Yes, even if they act all adulty and independent-like!) It was easy for me to compliment my daughter on her theater expertise this week, but she also won my admiration as she and Google Maps navigated us all over NYC with ease. With eight days together, I had ample opportunity to compliment her on everything from her fashion choices to her cooking. (When we were at her apartment for a few days before we left on our trip, she made me the most ah-mazing pulled chicken, sweet potato, and quinoa dish!!!)
With only one daughter after two sons, I know I’m not an expert on mothers and daughters! I’d love to hear some tips from you mamas of multiple girls. What do you do to build your relationship with your daughters? Please share your tips in the comments below!
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