Raising Teen Girls
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Insights into the mental health and well-being of teen girls...

4 ways to nurture your mother daughter relationship during the teen years

If there is one thing I've noticed in the mother-daughter relationship during the teen years... it vacillates between stillness and chaos.  Like a river filled with twists and turns in one moment everything is calm and cool, then all of a sudden you hit some rapids!

When I consider the various gripes and complaints over the years, there seems to be 4 key desires of every teen girl that come up over and over in sessions.  Mostly indirect, but girls have this longing for increased connectedness to mom despite what they say.

It is so easy to get caught up on the rapids that you can forget about the calmer times and how much peace and joy that ride brings. There will always be conflict, disagreement and struggle but the more you can build relationship with her despite adversity the quicker you will get through the turbulence into still waters. 

Here are 4 skills to help get you through it and build relationship...

Encouragement

"I know I've messed up but I feel so discouraged.  It seems as if when I'm down, she just keeps bringing things up.  Even if I'm doing good at school, she doesn't notice.  She only sees the wrong.  I can't seem to get anything right in her eyes."

Believe it or not 99% of the time she knows what she did and that it was wrong.  Over and over again girls will ask me why parents continue to bring something up repeatedly and not seem to notice how it is making the situation worse.  I spend time explaining the fear parents have about her choices and how it can cause them to over-focus on it.

No matter what is going on at home and between you, take time to encourage her.  Find something... anything and speak words of encouragement.  She already has a ton of discouragement, just being in her own skin at this age.  She needs mom to be her #1 fan despite her behavior.

Words have power.  No matter how awful she has behaved, there is always something to be encouraging about.  She notices.  It will radically improve your connection to her.  Build her up.  It just might change her behavior!

Forgiveness

This might seem strange but often after a big mess up, girls feel as if mom has not been able to forgive them and continues to hold the offense against her or even personalizes it.  For example, let's say grades really matter to you and she gets an F.  She eventually works though it but it still bothers you that she made an F.  She can sense it.  It often comes through words or how quickly you can recall "that time".  It causes her to pull back.

She needs your forgiveness to move forward.  If she believes you are still harboring anger and bitterness towards her, expect a lack of connection. Do it for her, do it for yourself.  After-all, she is human and she will make mistakes.  Not everything she does is intended to make you upset or hurt you.

Forgiveness of yourself is also critical.  She notices when you are beating yourself up and it bothers her, sometimes causing her to walk on egg shells so she doesn't upset you more.  You are mom and you are human.  Teach her how to forgive herself by watching you do it.  There is so much freedom in letting go.

Fun

Teen girls LOVE to have fun.  No matter what the circumstances are, make sure you take time to have fun with her.  Try new things, go new places.  Be more adventurous and teach that to her.  You may think it's immature and silly... it is!  Do it anyways.

I've had girls say to me that they HAVE to have a friend go on the family trip because mom and dad are sooo boring and don't get her humor.  There may be some truth in this but really try to understand why something is hilarious to her.  Try to see life through her eyes.  It's easy to forget because we have gone through so much more and often become jaded to a lot.

Don't assume you know what it is fun to her.  Ask her and come up with some great bonding activities.  Intentionally having fun with your daughter on a regular basis will nurture your relationship.

Take an Interest

This is one of the greatest relationship building skills you can learn. Teen girls LOVE when someone takes an interest in what matters to them, even parents.  It helps them feel supported and loved. 

No matter how weird and obscure, make attempts to notice and listen to why it matters to her.  This will draw you closer and she will feel more secure in the relationship.  Even small efforts are appreciated.  You might not approve or agree but in trying to understand, you will learn more about her and build relationship.

Girls will say they like when mom takes interest, especially if it it's harder for mom because she recognizes mom is really trying to know her. You never know... you might just find out you love it too!

The teen years mark a significant turning point in life towards young adulthood.  The nature of your relationship with your daughter will change and should change.  The key is finding ways to stay connected while she goes off to explore more of who she is and who she was created to be.  You will always be a life-line to her.  Learn to nurture the relationship!