A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem
– Naomi Wolf author & journalist
Eeeeh by gum, my northern roots are resurrecting in this blog as I consider the ins and outs of an often overlooked relationship; the mother-daughter relationship. I have a natural interest in this relationship. I coach more and more teen girls and their mums through the tricky teen years and also coach more mothers who find themselves “lost” as their once dependent children start finding their wings and looking towards their peers for validation and connection and make their fledgling flights away from the safety of mum’s nest.
Yep! It is an undeniably complex yet intrinsically powerful relationship. In fact, it is the relationship that sets daughters up for all future relationships whether they be with family, friends, lovers, spouses, children, grandchildren or colleagues. It is the relationship that shapes a daughter’s identity, self-worth, and future independence so that one day she too can, in her turn, pass the lessons she has learned on to her own children. Interestingly, The Journal of Neuroscience examined this relationship and found it is an even stronger bond than the often acclaimed father-son bond. Mothers and daughters “report deeper emotions, positive and negative, in their intergenerational relationships than fathers and sons”. Having a daughter is like having a “mini me” and no-one wants to argue or be upset with a smaller version of themselves, right? LOL
It’s not a given
A fab mum-daughter relationship however, is not a given! So many things can come between mums and daughters. Stuff like hormones, personality, temperament and experiences play a role. As a mum we have the opportunity to teach our daughters how to grow up in this world. We get to be her guide, confidant and friend for life and to do that we have to keep connection through difficult times and transitions. As mums we feel our relationship should be easy cos we should have so much in common, right? The guilt can be over whelming if we don’t always feel a close connection with our daughters. We see social media posts showing mum and daughter pairs enjoying shopping, meals out and time in mutually enjoyed experiences and when we’ve just had the “mother” of all rows with ours over something meaningless and unimportant, we feel useless.
I’m sharing a few ideas of how to strengthen the bond with your daughter and keep the channels of communication open to avoid misunderstanding and conflict.
Here we go;
*** Teach her what you know… by this I don’t just mean how to use the washing machine and the dishwasher (although these are bloody useful too) NOOO I mean the things that speak to character like perseverance, integrity, faith, resilience, and honesty which are essential traits to help her succeed at the game of life. Equip her with all you know so that when she leaves home she can flourish and thrive.
*** Talk with her about her relationships… It is so well known that girls struggle with friendships growing up and in truth, they can be jealous, catty, and downright horribly competitive with each other…and all for no apparent reason! She needs her mum to show her what a good female to female relationship looks like and to model that role for her to learn. Teach her positive communication and friendship. Teach her how to make time for her female friends. Show her how to cheerlead and how to make her sisterhood relationships strong and bombproof for life.
*** Don’t react to her drama when she spills her heart out… Listen. Above all, listen but don’t get dragged into her drama as you are listening to her talk about whatever drama she finds herself embroiled in (which will be often during the teen years and hopefully less as she grows older and wiser). She is bound to say something inflated or overly dramatic, and your motherly instincts will kick in to solve her drama or to protect her. That’s normal so don’t judge yourself. But do avoid reacting as that will shut her down from opening up again as she may become scared to say something wrong or offensive. Listen but don’t get sucked in. Remain calm and look busy.
*** Let her talk and love to listen… Women talk. Women talk a lot. Our daughters learn to talk (a lot) from us so do not be surprised. We are natural communicators. Make time for your daughter without distractions so that you can actively listen. Bedtime is a good time for younger girls as they’ll happily chat rather than go to bed. With teens a good time is when they walk in the door and want to decompress. The trick is to keep busy though so it looks like you are not really listening. Ask open-ended questions then fake busy ness so they waffle on and spill it all out. Resist the urge to rush in and give advice. Just enjoy listening to whatever bubbles up and out.
*** Learn what she loves and love it too… Find out what makes your daughter happy and whatever her passion is, invest in it with her. It could be dance, theatre, music, singing, skateboarding, basketball… whatever it is, spend time enjoying it with her and value it for her. It will be something that connects you always through difficult times and something you can do together to rekindle bonds should things ever get sticky!
I hope these little tips help. Give them a go and let me know what works for you and your daughter.
The problem with a difficult and unresolved mum and daughter relationship for us women is that is has the potential to jeopardise and wreck other relationships. If it goes unresolved and keeps women distant from their mothers it can distort their perceptions. They may find it hard to trust others or reversely, trust too much and too easily. If a woman delays resolving the tension that sits at the core of her own mum-daughter relationship, intuition, a wonderful female gift, becomes muffled and unclear.
As a result, women;
*** may grow up unfairly or impulsively hurting or rejecting people that remind them of their mums
*** may attract friends who demonstrate the same destructive behaviours as mum
*** may be unable to draw boundaries and set limits with their mum which in turn can affect their own families; husbands and kids
*** may find it hard to build a healthy intimate relationship and/or keep attracting dysfunctional partners
As women, we must cut the the emotional umbilical cord just as it was physically cut at birth, in order for our self-esteem as women not to depend on our mother’s approval. Instead we need to learn how to approve of, and understand ourselves.
You see now why this relationship is so important? Yes?
I invite you to just spend some time thinking about your own relationship with your mum and what it’s like now. If it needs healing, don’t leave it any longer, especially if you have a daughter of your own. The sooner you resolve it, the better for everyone.
If you need help, do reach out and find out about my coaching packages. I would love to support and cheerlead you as you work on your self-love, self-acceptance and your own mum-daughter relationship.
In the meantime enjoy building your daughter’s self-esteem and know you are doing the very best you can! You’ve got this!
Shine, sparkle and radiate beautiful…