A strong mom-daughter bond is not a given. Just like every relationship, the mother-daughter relationship is vulnerable. So many things can come between a mom and her daughter, not the least of which is hormones!
I have three daughters and my relationship with each has been different because they are different. Personality, temperaments, experiences - all of these can affect your relationship with your daughter. And because of these variables, I have had to work harder at having a good relationship with some of my daughters than with others. My girls are adults now. As hard as some of the seasons we went through in our relationships were, I am so thankful that we worked to maintain our mom-daughter bond.
As moms, we have the opportunity to teach our girls how to grow up in this world -to be their guide, confidant and friend for life. To do that we must maintain a connection even in difficult seasons of our relationship. So, how do you build that bond if you don't have a natural connection? Or, how can you strengthen it if you've already got a bond? There are a few things that I always tried to do - especially while my girls still lived at home - that helped me bond with them.
We've all heard the statistics about how many more words women speak per day than men. Our girls are women in the making so we should not be surprised when they talk - a lot. Women are natural verbal communicators. Carve out time to spend with your daughter when there aren't distractions and you can really listen. Bedtime is a great moment for this with younger girls because they really don't want to go to bed and will happily chat.
With your older girls, I learned to follow them to their room every time they walked in the door from school, from swim practice or from a night out - no matter how late it was. I would busy myself hanging up clothes for them as they decompressed after a long day. Lots of information would tumble out. Ask some open-ended questions, and then listen. Resist the urge to rush in to give advice. Just enjoy hearing her heart about whatever is bubbling to the top.
2. Learn what she loves and learn to love it too
What makes your daughter tick? Is it dance? A sport? Music? Perhaps she's really into fashion. Whatever her passion is, invest in it with her. My girls love the theater. Over the years it has become our thing to do together. For every big birthday, if I ask what they want they say "Let's go to New York and see _ on Broadway." We now have favorite restaurants, shops and sights. NY has become one of several traditions with my girls that I treasure because we don't live together anymore.
As I mentioned in the first point, we shouldn't be surprised at the statistics that women generally talk more than men do. And much to the first point, as you are listening to her spill her heart out to you, control your reactions to whatever she says. She is bound to say something that is dramatic or inflated, and your motherly instincts will kick in to correct or protect her. But that response has the potential of shutting her down from opening up again - she might be scared to say something wrong or offensive. Ask questions instead. Remember to compliment her on what she is handling well.
4. Teach her what you know
Your life might look exactly like what your daughter wants to grow up to be, or perhaps it is far from it. It isn't the washing the dishes or folding the laundry that she needs you to teach her (although, those are helpful things for her to know while she's still at home), but she needs you to teach her things that speak to her character. Things such as perseverance, faith and integrity are essential traits that she will need to enter into the world. Equip her with as much as you know, and she will desire your opinion when she's out of the house. When my girls ask me for advice it makes me so happy to still be a part of their life.
Why is it that girls have such a difficult time with friendships growing up? It's no secret that girls can be catty, jealous and downright competitive with one another - and for no good reason. She needs you to show her what a good female-to-female relationship looks like. How do you communicate with your friends? Does your daughter feel comfortable around her friends? Or is she altering her personality to fit what she thinks they want her to be? But most importantly, model a healthy marriage relationship with your husband to show her what a real life marriage looks like. She will be watching for one day when she finds herself in the same position.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Susan Merrill's website. It has been republished here with permission.
I left behind the corporate gray of banking for the colorful world of kids. I had three children and adopted two more. I am the very imperfect Merrill family manager and the founder of iMOM. I love to analyze life, ponder possibilities and pray for opportunities, which makes for a very busy and messy house! I live in Tampa, Florida, with my handsome husband — Family First founder and author Mark Merrill — and two, or depending on the day, up to five of my children ages twenty-one to twenty-six. On those days, I happily forsake all other responsibilities to run a bed and breakfast and laundromat for my family.