Dear mom of a teenage daughter,
Remember when your kiddo turned two, and everyone did that deep sigh thing and even rolled their eyes a bit knowing the choppy waters you were about to enter? Well, you have now returned to those waters. The difference is that your two-year-old stayed in the boat with you back then, but your teenage daughter has jumped off. Welcome to your new world.
Just like any storm, this too shall pass, but how we captain the boat in the middle of the storm can be the difference between surviving and capsizing.
First, you are not alone. Yes, you will find girls that show signs of kindness to their moms, and I am guessing there are moments when you see glimmers of kindness too, but don’t compare your relationship with your daughter to anyone else’s during this time. There are many different reasons why girls stay close to their moms during the teen years; sometimes the reasons are healthy, but sometimes they are not. It is normal for teens to push away, test boundaries, and strive for independence, so know that what you are experiencing is not unusual.
Second, you may be feeling the hurt and growing pains that moms often experience as your little bundle of joy becomes less little and less joyful. You may long for that sweet girl in pigtails to look at you and say, “Mommy, I love you!” followed by a big hug. Bubble popped—that time has passed, and boy can it hurt! Rolling eyes, slamming doors, and cold shoulders can be infuriating!
Be aware of the feelings behind your anger. They are most often based in fear and sadness. We fear that we are raising a cruel and mean girl, and we are sad because we are slowly watching our daughter grow up and leave the nest. Knowing it is fear and sadness, we can take a deep breath, call a friend to vent, cry, and process, and then put on our armor to join the battlefield again.
Third, our daughters need our strength. If we go back to the boat analogy, they are swimming in difficult waters (hormone changes, brain changes, body image, relationships, academics and on, and on, and on!) They don’t need our hurt and anger, they need our strength. Our daughters need us to be their anchor when they are feeling out of control. If we role model strength, they will learn to use strength as a coping mechanism. If we jump into the out-of-control waters with them, it only forces them to swim further away. Stay in the boat and be their anchor.
Fourth, focus on what you want your daughter to learn. If we can take off our emotional hats and put on our teaching ones, we will help our daughters learn from their experiences. If, instead, we become angry and escalated, we put ourselves in the crazy corner and our girls only learn that we are crazy. For our daughters to learn, we must stay calm and firm.
Fifth, pick your battles, and when you do, set the boundary. We set boundaries to teach respect, responsibility, health, and safety. If you feel your daughter has crossed the line, hold her accountable—that is how you become her anchor. When she is not being respectful, teach her how to be respectful; when she is not being responsible, teach her how to be responsible; when she is not being healthy or safe, teach her how to be healthy and safe. When she is feeling out of control, she will look to you to be her strength.
No matter how mad she gets, and no matter how hard she pushes you away, remember, she does need you. Her needs are now different than they were when she was young. Be her anchor, and once the storm has passed, you can get back in the boat together.
Hang in there,
Another mom in the middle of the storm