The mother-daughter relationship is particularly challenging because both sides desire and value emotional connection, whether it’s negative or positive.
Because of this deep desire, when circumstances erode the emotional connection, both parties feel hurt and can resort to unhelpful language and actions that further the divide. However, even after a wall has developed, I have guided many mothers with daughters ages 8 to 18 through the process of melting the wall. The length of time required to melt the wall depends on how deep the divide between mother and daughter has become. The good news is that your perseverance can create a reconnection.
Some walls are thin. With these walls, as soon as you start the reconnection process, which I will discuss below, you are able to melt the barrier quickly. As your daughter opens up, reconnection is gained. Other walls are thick due to your daughter feeling hurt and protecting herself repeatedly over several years. Special challenges, such as sensory integration, anxiety, inattention, or impulse control, make walls especially difficult to melt. It’s normal for you to feel frustrated on a daily basis, and that frustration can cause hurtful words and actions by both of you. Even a thick wall of mutual hurt and lack of trust can melt, though, when you learn the reconnection process.
The reconnection process starts with you taking full responsibility for discovering which of your past actions have hurt your daughter and then taking steps to melt the wall. If you keep waiting for your daughter to change first, you will be powerless, frustrated, and discouraged. The full responsibility approach gives you the power to improve your relationship.
As soon as you say, “Okay, I’m going to make our relationship better,” it’s time to be vulnerable with your daughter and discuss communication blocks. This is the scary part of the process because what if you admit that you’ve been blocking communication and she uses it against you? Even though every mother fears this response, I have never heard of a daughter turning on her mother in this way. Your vulnerability starts to warm your daughter’s heart toward you, even if this isn’t outwardly apparent right away. Although she won’t turn on you, your daughter’s response will range from talking openly about the communication blocks to getting upset and refusing to talk with you about it.
If your daughter refuses to talk with you because she feels deeply hurt, trust is broken, and she isn’t ready to forgive you yet, don’t despair. In fact, expect her wall to remain in place for a while as you become vulnerable and she learns to trust you again. As you work on being vulnerable and not blocking communication, also make sure to use the appropriate parenting role – Director, Collaborator, or Supporter/Confidant – for each situation. You have likely used an incorrect parenting role in the past, such as being a Director rather than a Collaborator, which has contributed to your daughter putting up a protective wall. In summary, the reconnection process requires taking full responsibility, being vulnerable as you discuss your communication blocks, and choosing the appropriate parenting role for each situation.
Even if you feel that there’s no way to melt the wall, I believe there is because you love your daughter and you are working on improving your relationship.
Once you understand how your words have unintentionally hurt her, without feeling guilty, you can choose to change. Your daughter will see this change and start to feel reconnected with you. Your daughter is waiting for you to help her melt the wall and build a bridge so she can cross over to you again.
On one occasion, a mom came to me upset and at her wit’s end because her 17-year-old daughter wouldn’t speak to her or return her text messages. She felt hopeless, but I knew she could melt the wall between herself and her daughter because she had built it. First, I taught her about avoiding communication blocks and how to listen openly with empathy instead. Through reviewing her communication blocks, the mom realized that she regularly used interrogating, giving advice, and commanding. She was also using the Director role and taking charge in situations that were her daughter’s to decide. Through our work together, she learned how to be a Supporter/Confidant rather than a Director so her daughter wouldn’t have to put up a protective wall to keep her mother out.
The mom talked with her daughter about communication blocks, and her daughter agreed that the mom interrogated, commanded, and gave unwanted advice and that she needed to change. The mom worked hard to avoid telling her daughter what to do and instead listen with empathy when her daughter started trusting her and sharing more. Within a month, her daughter didn’t need to keep her mother out by putting up a wall. The daughter trusted her mother so much that she wanted to spend Friday nights with her parents who were shocked but loved the time they finally had together as a family. In another two weeks, the daughter took her mom to a concert of her choosing, and they had great mother-daughter time together. Because this mom took full responsibility for changing, she created a beautifully connected relationship beyond her wildest dreams
As you practice the reconnection process, keep focused on the loving relationship you are determined to create rather than the wall that remains. In order to keep a positive attitude, find a support system that understands the challenge and encourages your progress. A loving and connected relationship is possible with your daughter if you learn to take full responsibility, stop blocking communication, and melt away the walls that have been built over time. They will come down quicker than they were created.
For additional information on this process, read these articles.
©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, , or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!
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