Wendy Rice

How to Create Healthy Adult Mother-Daughter Relationships

When you think about your relationship with your mother, does it make you smile and feel good inside or do you get a knot in your stomach and start to clench your fists?

Or Moms: When you think of your daughter, do you feel proud and grateful or do you get angry and think about how she never listens to your advice and generally makes the wrong decisions?

Relationships with our mothers can be quite tricky and complex and we all handle them in different ways. Some daughters have amazing relationships with their moms, while others deal with unhealthy relationships that cause emotional turmoil throughout their lives.

A friend of mine shared this story about her relationship with her daughter:

“When my daughter was young we constantly butted heads. If I said it was white, she would argue that it was black. She caused me so much emotional stress while growing up. Then when her father and I divorced, I thought she would never speak to me again. She was so angry with me…but then things changed when she was expecting her first child. 

From the moment she became a mother, we have been intertwined and our relationship is almost effortless. She texts almost every day and when she has questions about how to raise her two daughters, my phone is always the first to ring. She even reaches out to say she needs “Mom Time” when her world feels a little off kilter. She relies on me to help her make life feel a little more balanced.”

It’s quite interesting how life can impact relationships. The dynamics of a mother and daughter relationship change as we age. Just like the story from my friend, we may go through stages of not getting along, to not being able to get along without each other. Much like a marriage, it takes a lot of work, communication and even compromise at times to maintain a healthy adult bond with our mothers or daughters.

Here are a few tips I can offer as a professional, and even a few of my own that I’ve learned along the way from my relationship with my mother:

Advice – This tip is more for the moms. As a mother, you want to always give advice so your daughter doesn’t have to go through any unnecessary stress or pain. But give advice or opinions only when asked. Respect that your daughter is an adult and can make adult decisions on her own without your input. If you are continuously giving advice and opinions when she doesn’t want or need them, you run the risk of her never coming to you, even when she might need you the most.  What you might not realize is that by constantly giving unsolicited advice, you may be unknowingly sending your daughter a message that you don’t believe she is capable of figuring out her life on her own.

Boundaries – Creating boundaries is important in any relationship, especially in those where the parties tend to become enmeshed, where roles are not clearly defined or when emotions run high.  Knowing that certain times or topics are off limits for one or both of you can be helpful.  Make a concerted effort to consider how your personal identity is different from your mother’s or your daughter’s and how you can occupy that role without stepping on the other’s toes.

Expectations – You’re both adults and have lives of your own. Don’t create unrealistic expectations that either of you will always be available. Daughters, your mom has raised her kids and she is enjoying her life. Support her decisions to be active or do things that don’t always include you. And mothers, you remember what it was like to be a young married mom with kids and trying to work too or building a career and living your life. Their lives are busy and your daughter may not always have time to spend with you when you ask. Instead, create realistic expectations around what you need and expect from each other and agree to communicate when those expectations start to get a little gray

Communicate – Learn the best ways to communicate with each other. One of the complaints I hear the most from mothers is that, “My daughter never calls me.”  Find the best way to communicate with each other.If Mom prefers to communicate in person or on the phone, but daughter prefers to text, learn to compromise so that both of you feel comfortable in the way you communicate. Let your daughter know that you need to hear her voice occasionally, but you’re fine to text when she wants to say hello or ask a question. Or let your Mom know that you’re busy and texting helps you manage your time better. The compromise helps both of you feel comfortable in your communication methods.

Create Special Moments – Make a point to spend time together. Remember the saying that it’s not the quantity as much as it is the quality. Life is busy so recognize it for what it is and make it a priority to create special moments to be with each other. Maybe you don’t live close to each other, or maybe life is just that busy. Make time to schedule lunch, dinner, coffee, a vacation, or even phone time to just be with each other.

There are times when generation gaps can cause havoc on relationships between a parent and a child. Keeping an open mind and fostering a non-judgmental atmosphere on both sides will go a long way in building a healthy relationship between mother and daughter. Respect, learning to say you’re sorry, and a lot of love is what builds and maintains that bond!