Many adults have to face the fact that their sweet baby girl has grown into a distant and detached young woman. Several factors can lead to damaged relationships, including family conflict, divorce, substance abuse, geographical distance and lifestyle choices. While you cannot change the way your daughter feels, there are a number of ways you can help the healing process.
Give It Time
Most damaged relationships with daughters are the result of years of family dysfunction and communication breakdown. Expecting to find a quick fix to heal your relationship is likely to cause disappointment and frustration. Strive for gradual improvement over time and don't give up when there are setbacks. When tensions are high, allow time for you and your daughter to cool off before addressing issues.
Swallow the Pride
Even when you know you are completely right, an uncompromising attitude will get you nowhere with your daughter. Remember to use "I" statements as you discuss how her actions make you feel. Acknowledge how she feels, even if you completely disagree. Apologizing first does not make you the weaker one. It shows maturity and sets the stage for her to apologize for her actions. Speak to her in an adult tone rather than a condescending parental voice.
Shut Up and Listen
Sometimes the best way to repair a damaged relationship is to simply listen to what your daughter is saying. Let her vent her feelings without arguing back, and let her know you are hearing her. Repeat back what she says with statements like, "So what I'm hearing is ..." or, "Just so I understand, you have felt ... ." If she starts to lose her temper and become verbally abusive, calmly let her know you would like to finish the conversation when she is not so upset.
As your relationship with your daughter begins to improve, focus on the present and future rather than dwelling on past conflicts. Try to get together on a regular basis to have fun and strengthen your relationship. Avoid returning to any of the behaviors or situations that led to problems with your daughter in the past. If you sense conflict is starting to redevelop, address it immediately rather than allowing it to fester.
Sometimes parents are not able to mend their relationship with their daughter on their own. Issues like substance abuse or mental illness can get in the way of addressing family conflict. If your daughter is willing, a family counselor may be able to help the two of you work through your problems. If your daughter refuses to work on the relationship, going to counseling on your own will help you deal with the situation.
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