“Happy New Year,” most of us chime to our family and friends at the stroke of twelve. We hug, pop champagne, smile, anticipate what this new year may bring. For some, making new year resolutions is the norm – a promise of improvement.
Eating healthy foods, exercise daily, cutting down on social media, more time with the family may be goals that you considered.
Many women have a goal of improving the relationship between herself and her mother or daughter.
In my private practice, I see many women who struggle in their relationship with their mother or daughter, including estrangement. This blog is for women who are in contact with their mother/daughter, and who wish to improve their relationship.
Improving the Mother/Daughter Relationship
At the start of a new year, mothers and daughters often contemplate how to improve their relationship. They want to communicate better, they don’t want to feel triggered by ‘thoughtless’ comments.
Mothers and daughters want healing, want resolution to a difficult relationship that often spans decades
Improvement will not happen in one week or three weeks. It’s taken time for your relationship to fracture, it will take time to re-build and repair your relationship.
Before we dive into unpacking what you seek in your relationship, think about what you value most about your mother or daughter relationship?
Is it that she nods, smiles and acknowledges you?
Is she a calm presence when there is turmoil in your life?
Does she support you in all that you choose to be and do?
Does she possess a good sense of humour?
Reflections on Mother/Daughter Relationship
What aspect of your relationship do you think needs the most work at present?
Is it listening to each other, to be heard by the other?
That your mother or daughter ‘gets you’, understands you even if you don’t agree with their opinion?
Is it being acknowledged and not feeling invisible in their eyes?
Reflect on the relationship that you would like to have with your mother or daughter in one years’ time?
Is it open, honest communication?
Not giving advice too quickly. Just a little will sow the seed.
Is it respecting boundaries, such as not dropping by unannounced?
Not pleasing others at the expense of yourself, such as baby-sitting duties?
The answer to these questions will help to point you in the direction of improvement or resolution. Resolving a relationship difficulty does not automatically mean ‘happy family’. It does mean you get to a point where you feel comfortable within yourself that you have tried to sort out decades-long issues.
These may be goals for you to aim for. Understand, though, that with change comes fear, a hesitancy for what this new relationship may mean.
There are many questions and views to consider about your relationship, some unique to your own family circumstances.
Here are some suggestions that may steer the direction for your relationship.
Orientate Your Mother/Daughter Relationship
- Think about what you need from your relationship. Mothers and daughters often want to be heard, to be understood, yet how is this need communicated? Do you want to hang on to your need to be right or do you want to improve your relationship?
- Not all relationships improve. For some mothers and daughters, the relationship stays the same yet the connection with each other is still significant. They understand that change takes time, or may not happen, yet still choosing to remain in each other’s lives. It will be low-level connection.
- Accept that your mother/daughter may not want to change. What will you be prepared to accept in terms of behaviour? Acceptance of your mother/daughter’s unique personality is one of the keys to moving forward in your relationship.
- Recognise that your mother or daughter may be absorbed with herself, an egocentric individual, that she can lack empathy, a difficulty in looking outside of herself to understand another’s feelings or viewpoint.
- Consider patterns of behaviour within the family that is repeated from one generation to another.
Change can happen, it takes just one person to change things up
- Separating reason from emotion may be more helpful than trying to argue your point of view, particularly if the other person is not ready to hear you.
- Consider what happens between yourselves when a difference of opinion becomes apparent. How do you each react? Do you attempt to negotiate a fairness where you both are satisfied with the outcome? Do you shout to be heard in the disagreement? Mothers and daughters can react differently. One may leave the room due to feeling overwhelmed, while the other may stay yet churn with anger.
Tips To Improve Relationship With Your Mother/Daughter?
- Recognise that mothers and daughters come from different generations, grew up in different families and have had different experiences.
- Create time to spend together, just the two of you, to improve your relationship. If you have a long-distance mother-daughter relationship, connect online or by phone. Some mothers and daughters watch TV shows together while online.
- Include conversations of happy times or a happy memory.
- If it’s about how often to see each other, then work out a time frame when to engage with each other, for example, catch up every two weeks. This is creating boundaries. On the “Mothers and Daughters Unfiltered” podcast, a woman and her daughters discussed how they learned healthy boundaries with each other and “discussed the value of talking about their feelings, needs, fears and hopes for the future. Most of all, both daughters admitted they come to learn the value of spending extended quality time together…”
- Carefully choose your words and tone of voice if needing to discuss a sensitive issue. Craft a short written piece, memorise it, before conveying your message verbally.
- A few years ago, I used to run groups to help parents sort out behaviour of their children. A mantra often used was to “choose your battles”. The same phrase is appropriate for adults too.
Deciding which battles to weigh in on, will decrease the resentment between mothers and daughters and increase your connection
- Encourage each other to realise dreams and goals, for example, maybe mother’s dream is to travel; perhaps daughter’s dream is to further her career.
- Listen, really listen, to each other so you feel heard and understood, and to ask how each of you are feeling and what you need.
- Understand that mothers and daughters are not perfect, each will make mistakes. They will ‘stuff up’ and it will annoy you. Some mothers and daughters imagine that their loved one is a friend or acquaintance. This can create a helpful emotional distance. It can sometimes be easier to accept imperfections in others who are not in our family circle. This act can lower the emotional temperature, but it does take practice.
- Love and value yourself first, to build a better relationship with the other. Loving yourself is not wrong. It is crucial to nurture yourself before you can nurture another.
- Journal about your newly learned behaviours. Journalling will help you see patterns within your family and make a choice for the future.
- Leave the defensive attitude behind, it is a barrier for creating warm, intimate relationships.
Write A New Chapter
If it is difficult to feel heard, acknowledged and respected in your relationship, then it may be time to contact a specialist in the area of mother-daughter relationships who can guide and support you.
So I return to the quote at the beginning of this blog.
What new chapter will you write for this new year?
Janice Williams is a Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist.
Janice offers in-person and online appointments. Online sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.
Image source: Diana Polekhina, Unsplash