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Tools for Moms Regarding Teen Girls

by Rachel Pancare

The mother-daughter relationship is complex at any age, but the teen years can be especially challenging. Adolescent girls often feel torn between wanting to remain close to their mothers and wanting to separate. Mothers might also feel conflicted between wanting to parent and wanting to befriend their daughters. But as author and assistant psychology professor Peggy Drexler writes in a Huffington Post article, "Why Moms and Daughters Can Never Really Be Friends," "The fact is that the mother-daughter best friendship doesn't leave much room for the traditional role of being a mom. Or, for that matter, being a daughter . . . When the best friend role trumps the mother role, a competitive dynamic can emerge."

Don't Take It Personally

Teenage daughters might say things they don't mean in the heat of an argument.

"Sometimes the 'terrible teens' can dim the glow of the most confident moms," according to an article at Familyeducation.com titled "How to Survive Your Daughter's Teen Years." Hormones are fluctuating and emotional ups and downs can cause teenagers to say words they don't mean. It's easy for moms to become hurt and defensive. Learning how to screen out a spew of criticisms in the heat of an argument is an important tool for mothers. Try not to take every comment personally. "Both moms and daughters often have idealistic expectations about their relationship," according to an article on PsychCentral.com titled "15 Insights on Improving Mother-Daughter Relationships." But no relationship will be perfect all the time.

Find New Ways of Communicating

Teenage girls sometimes want to be left alone. They might choose to close their doors and talk to their friends on the phone instead of spending time with their mothers. "Unlike a best friend, a mother and daughter relationship is permanent," explains Drexler in her Huffington Post article. So it is important for moms to retain some form of communication with their daughters. If you tend to argue frequently, try new methods such as writing notes to each other or having timed conversations, where each person gets a set number of minutes -- without interruption -- to explain how she feels. Also, choose appropriate times to talk rather than forcing a conversation before you or your daughter are ready. Psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of "I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict," suggests checking your emotional temperature first. "The mother should evaluate how prepared she is to deal with the confrontation. In other words, is her emotional arousal at the right level? Because if she can't think clearly and stay in control, which is something she wants to model for her daughter, then she should do something to relax herself and postpone the discussion until she can stay in control."

Remember Your Own Teen Years

All mothers of teenage girls were once teenage girls. You might find it helpful to think back to your own adolescent experience. Try to remember what it was like when you were turned down by a boy or made fun of by a bunch of girls. Remind yourself of how you felt when you really wanted to do something and your mother wouldn't allow it. Thinking about your own teenage experience may help you relate better to and sympathize with your daughter. Drexler writes that mothers like to feel connected to their daughters, and this might be the perfect way to help you do that.

Stay In the Present

When arguments repeat themselves, try to stay in the moment. According to the PsychCentral.com article, many mothers and daughters have a "default disagreement." Revisiting old disagreements can exacerbate a fight. Treat each conflict as a new event. Avoid phrases such as "Here we go again" or "You always do this." Similarly, avoid projecting into the future with phrases such as "You're always going to be like this -- you never change." Such comments can fuel an argument and make it worse. Remember that teenagers are in the process of building an identity and learning about themselves and the world around them. They might need to make the same mistake several times before learning a lesson. So try to be patient and stay in the here and now.

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

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