May
20

Building the Mother - Daughter Connection

By Barbara

 Have you ever asked yourself…Why do I have to walk on egg shells around my daughter?  Why does my daughter feel criticized when I’m just trying to help?  How can my daughter say I don’t understand her?  Why must I bite my tongue when I see how she parents her children?  These are but a few of the questions I encounter when I coach women who wish to be closer to their adult daughters, but can’t seem to get it right!

Many mothers struggle when communicating with adult family members, but no interaction is as delicate as  with their daughters.  Well into their adulthood, we feel the need to provide and protect our children, as we did when they were little.  We want to spare them any pain and steer them in the right direction.  We have great wisdom to offer and want to justify our wish to participate in their lives.  We tell ourselves that since we’ve been around the block a few times, we are more aware of those dangerous pitfalls.  Besides, who can know and love a child better than a mother?
 
In spite of our good intentions, nothing can sabotage a mother-daughter relationship faster than a mother whose communication is perceived as critical and controlling.  While we mean no harm, our comments can whisk an adult child to earlier decades where the thought of clinging to our apron strings makes them recoil.  Our adult daughters want to show us that they can make wise choices and lead their own lives, even at the risk of making a mistake.  They want us to be proud of them and acknowledge their competence.
 
So where do our good intentions fall off track?  Communication is complex.  On the surface we hear the words and yet underneath they convey multiple messages.  A suggestion such as “Wouldn’t you like to try my hairdresser?  She gives a really good hair cut!” can simply be taken as a kind gesture.  Or it can also kick off a wave of bad feelings, perceived criticism and disappointment.  Every communication is sent with a given intention, but it may be received at the other end with another set of interpretations depending upon who we are, our needs and history. 
 
Perhaps these tips I use when coaching my clients will be helpful:
  1. Think of your statement as double pronged.  There are the words verbatim versus the larger picture…those feelings we attach to those words.  The unspoken feelings are usually the ones that cause the emotionally charged exchanges. 
  2. Take the conversation deeper to reach those underlying issues.  Build a connection to your daughter by clarifying each other’s perspective and address any misleading “tone.” 
  3. Learn the art of offering a sincere apology and acquire the ability to receive a genuine one. 
  4. Some daughters are particularly reliant upon your opinion and will be super sensitive to your remarks.  Trust that you did a good enough job raising your daughter and that she can carry forward!
  5. Remember, our daughters, like us, need love and acceptance far more than they need advice. 
Families are our safety nets.  In them we seek comfort from the very people who potentially wield the most influence over us.  Respect the power of this relationship.  Explore better ways to communicate and seek professional help if you get stuck.  It is well worth the effort, because nothing can be more satisfying or begin to replace a strong mother-daughter relationship.
Categories : Retirement Coaching

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