Are you and your mother best friends, and you two talk every day? Or do you limit your encounters with her to occasional phone calls and holiday visits? Maybe, you have been estranged from her for years because of her disapproval of your decisions, or you of hers. The mother-daughter relationship is a complex and often difficult relationship to navigate, and one that has been studied extensively in psychology because of the impact it can have on both the mother and the daughter. A strong relationship with one’s mother can serve as a source of comfort and belongingness during difficult times and increase a person in positivity and resilience. On the other hand, the lack of maternal love and validation can have negative bearings on an individual’s sense of self and confidence levels. In fact, dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships have been found to contribute to attachment issues, lowered self-esteem, eating disorders, problems with conflict resolution and increased rates of adolescent depression.
What are some of the common issues that mothers and daughters have spats about? A lot of daughters feel that their mother has an overbearing presence and is overly critical and demanding. On the other hand, mothers may feel that their daughters do not listen to them, make poor choices and do not give them enough time. If you feel that it is important to improve and reinforce your relationship with your mother, the following tips may be helpful for you.
- Healthy communication: Oftentimes because mothers and daughters tend to regard their relationship as a close one, they think that each of them know how the other feels. As a result, they may not communicate enough, or even communicate harshly with one another because, ‘hey, this relationship is forever’. However, the unspoken emotions or the hurt that such unhealthy communication breeds may impact the relationship negatively. So, realize that your mother is not a mind reader and communicate openly with her. And if she is not treating you like an adult, let her know so gently.
- Find common interests: You may be busy and engaged with work, school or another aspect of your life, leaving your mother to feel left out, especially if you two spent a lot of time together in your earlier years. Try to find an activity that you two can routinely take part in, such as yoga or book club, so that you can set aside that time to enjoy with her. If you do not share many common interests, set aside time for a meal together or phone call to catch up.
- Receiving advice thoughtfully: Your mother may always (and perhaps, annoyingly) be doling out advice whenever you talk. If you don’t happen to agree with her and do not follow such advice, you can hurt her emotions and make her feel undervalued. Try to welcome her insights without being dismissive, even if you feel that she is interfering or being overly critical. It is okay to not follow her advice each and every time, but be respectful in letting her know that while you will take a different path, you appreciate her concerns.
- Setting boundaries: Boundaries are important in all relationships and especially so in close, familial ties where emotions run high. It may be helpful to realize that certain topics may agitate or upset your mother and steer clear of those. Make a conscious effort to appreciate that your mother is a unique individual with her own identity and avoid stepping on her toes.
- Manage your mood: We may often save the worst of us for those that we love and who love us, because we know they are here to stay. However, it is imperative to try to control your irrationality or temperamental behaviors, as much as possible, and recognize your mother’s bad days. Give her the space she needs to avoid aggravating a difficult situation.
- Learn to forgive: Finally, learn to forgive. When emotions run high, especially in close relationships, it can often be difficult to let go of things. During arguments, we tend to fight back with harsher words instead of listening and communicating respectfully. Realize that there are usually two sides to a story, and try to reach a compromise when you fight with your mother. And even if you are convinced that she is to blame, realize that she is, after all, a human being capable of making mistakes. And learn to accept that and forgive her for it.
No relationship is perfect, and every relationship needs to be worked on. If you feel that your relationship with your mother isn’t where you would like it to be, start by making small changes. Give her some time and lend her a shoulder. As with every other relationship, the key to a happy mother-daughter relationship is open communication, understanding and the reciprocal expression of love.