It's a bond unlike any other, but the relationship between a mom and her daughter can become fraught with tension as the girl grows up. Whether your daughter is 6 or 16, spending time together is crucial to maintaining that bond and getting to know and appreciate one another's gifts. Think beyond shopping trips, and find activities that nurture your daughter's self-esteem.
Your daughter needs 60 minutes of exercise each day, says the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, so break a sweat together. Offer some suggestions, but let your daughter choose the physical activity you try -- and work in some rewards. Go roller-blading along a beach boardwalk, and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the sand. Swim laps at a local pool before taking turns diving for swim sticks or playing Marco Polo. Reward yourselves for a long hike with a trip to an ice cream shop, or finish a bike ride with a picnic lunch. Helping your daughter find physical activities she enjoys is about more than just your bond. Exercising regularly can improve a girl's mental health and help her feel strong, says Dr. Anita Gurian of New York University's Child Study Center.
Learn Something New
Taking on a new challenge sets your daughter up to feel proud of what she can accomplish. Sign up for a sewing or cooking class together or buy language tapes and practice a new language. Gurian suggests bucking gender stereotypes, so encourage your daughter to learn about subjects like home repair and building. Your local home-improvement store might hold weekend workshops for kids, or you may find a mechanic friend is willing to give you both a lesson on changing a tire. Another option is to take on a project in your home together. For instance, watch instructional videos on stenciling walls together, and then put your knowledge to work by redecorating your daughter's room. If your daughter is a little one, something as simple as borrowing a new board game from a friend and learning the rules together gives you something to accomplish as a pair.
Explore Her Passion
Supporting and encouraging her interests helps a teen build her self-esteem, says HealthyChildren.org, and the same is true of younger children. Throwing yourself into something she loves also gives you a shared interest and lets you into a part of her world you might not otherwise see. If your daughter wants to be an actress, visit community theater shows on the weekends and start a weekly movie night so you can study and discuss acting techniques. Take a burgeoning artist to craft festivals and galleries and set up a studio in your home where you can paint together. Even interests that you think are silly give you a chance to bond. If your daughter is in love with a boy band, keep your judgment to yourself and help her put together a scrapbook of her favorite photos of the guys.
Part of parenting a girl is teaching her not to obsess over her appearance, but enjoying a day of pampering together can still be positive and worthwhile. Get side-by-side pedicures or massages, or set up a spa in your living room. Turn on relaxing music, light scented candles and turn down the lights. Soak your feet in bubbling foot baths, apply moisturizing face masks and paint each other's nails. (For a little one, stick to nail polish, and pick up nail stickers and nail polish pens to add flair to her fingers.) Take a preteen or teen to a makeup artist or makeup counter at the local department store for mother-and-daughter makeup lessons. Ask the artist to teach your daughter how to apply minimal, natural makeup so she can learn early on how to bring out her beauty rather than hiding it under layers of product.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images