My relationship with my teen daughter is very connected and I am looking for ways to maintain that bond, no matter what lies ahead. I know that my role as a parent is morphing from one of managing my daughter to a coaching or consulting role as she grows into adulthood. Despite this metamorphosis, I don’t want to lose our link.
Here are some tips from the trenches to help you preserve and strengthen your bond with your girl as she moves through the developmental phases of a teenager.
■ Use your daughter’s body clock changes to your advantage. According to author and counselor Michael Riera, Ph.D., in his book, Staying Connected to Your Teenager, “Teenagers open up most naturally late at night, and wise parents take advantage of this reality.” Watch movies together late into the night, set your alarm and join her for a late, impromptu chat when she is no longer busy with friends.
■ Use books to bond. Think about starting or joining a mother daughter book club as a way to have a shared experience. If a formal book club is too much, simply read the books she is reading.
■ Practice gratitude together, suggests mom Jennifer MacGowan. “We started a gratitude journal together last year. She gets one page and I take the other and then we read back to each other what we are thankful for. It has provided some great insight into her character.”
■ Use humor suggests Christine Parente deSoto, mom of four. “It is easy to get exasperated by things your kids say and lecture them. If you turn it into something ridiculous or funny they can laugh, and then get it.” She offers this example: Her daughter said she hated school and wanted to drop out. Mom said, “Great idea, you will look fantastic in that fast food outfit.” She avoided engaging in a debate, gave her daughter a compliment and made her laugh. Her daughter did her homework.
■ Try to assess her actions. Just as your child was communicating to you when they had tantrums as a toddler, your teen is trying to say something with “bad” behavior. Be careful to separate your disapproval of her actions from your approval of her as a person.
■ Stay bonded even when the going gets tough. Julianne Smalley, says that despite a rebellious phase in her teen years she never lost connection with her mom. Now a university student she offers this advice, “ Communicate and get on each other’s level. This will ultimately keep you connected whether you are on the other side of the globe, or just being a rebellious teen. My best advice is not to shut each other out even if you are angry at each other.”
■ Find an activity to do together. Colleen Reynolds, mom of three girls says that at the request of her youngest daughter, they tried a yoga class together and she was overwhelmed at how in tune the two became as a result. On yoga days Reynolds’ daughter would say, “mom – I cannot wait to rock the mat with you tonight.”
■ Show some respect suggests Louisa Lamb, mom of two daughters. “ I have always thought that if you treat your kids with the same respect that you show adults, it comes back eventually.” Although seemingly simple advice, this can be challenging when you are opposed to your daughter’s choices. Try to respect her right to choose, even if you disagree with the choice.
■ Plan a mother daughter trip. This does not have to break the bank, it can be as simple as a picnic, or a day trip to a new location. A change of scenery can lead to more relaxed or improved communication. This tactic helped Carolyn Jardine Woods reconnect after her 15 year-old-daughter moved out for six weeks. “I gave her some space and then, in the neutral territory, she opened up.”
■ Counter negative media messages about “terrible teens.” Remind your daughter of her accomplishments and support her as she practices becoming an adult with your guidance.
Sue LeBreton is a health and wellness journalist and mom
of a teen son and a teen daughter.
She and her daughter enjoy sharing books, movies and swimming.