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5 Insights on Improving Mother-Daughter Relationships

5 Insights on Improving Mother-Daughter Relationships

Mother-daughter relationships are diverse and complex. Others talk once a week. Some see each other weekly. Some mothers and daughters are BFFs. Others live in different states or countries. And undoubtedly, there’s a hint of all these things in most relationships.

1. Make the first move
Linda Mintle, Ph.D, marriage and family therapist and author of I Love My Mother said don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. Practical Help to Get the Most Out of Your Relationship. Doing so inevitably leaves relationships stuck. “Think about how you feel in the relationship and what you can do to change.”

2. Change yourself
It is commonly thought that the only way to improve a relationship is for the other person to change their ways. But you aren’t chained to their actions; you can change your own reactions and responses. Interestingly, this can still improve your relationship. Think of it as a dance – when one person changes their steps, the dance inevitably changes.

3. Have realistic expectations
Both moms and daughters often have idealistic expectations about their relationship. For example, kids commonly think their mom will be nurturing and always present. This idea can start at an early age. Mintle found herself setting up this unrealistic belief during the nightly reading time when her kids were young. She’d read a book about a mama bunny who rescued her son every time he ventured out and tried a risky activity, such as mountain-climbing or sailing.

4. Communicate
A common challenge with moms and daughters is the lack of communication. “In some ways they can be so close or feel so close that they believe that each of them should know how the other one feels,” “What happens, as a result, is that they don’t communicate. Or they communicate harshly, in ways they’d never “dare speak to everyone else which causes hurt feelings that “don’t go away so easily.”

5. Be an active listener
Active listening is “reflecting back what the other person is saying,” instead of assuming you already know. When you reflect back what the other person is saying, you’re telling them that she’s being heard and that you understand.
Also, listen “to the feelings underlying the message,” which is often the real message. If “mom says, ‘you’re acting like a doormat,’ the daughter hears that as being horribly critical, but what the mom is really saying is, ‘I feel so protective of you because you’re not protecting yourself.’”

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