How to Stay Close to a Teenage Daughter

By Judy Ford

The years between 14 and 16 are not easy for moms or daughters. Eight-year-old Carly told her mom, "I want to grow up and be just like you. At 14, she screamed, "I'm nothing like you, leave me alone." As a daughter begins to discover her own identity and spend more time with friends, it often feels to mom that she doesn't even want a relationship. As one mother said, "One minute she doesn't want to talk to me and the next she's snuggling with me on the couch." Teen transitions are confusing for both moms and daughters. Here are six ways to stay close.

Send Reassuring Messages Your daughter is as confused about what she's feeling as you are. Assure her that it's natural to feel upset and distant one minute and happy and connected the next. The push-pull of how close to be and how separate to be is natural in all mother-daughter relationships. It seems contradictory, but the reality is that daughters want to stay close to their mothers while branching out on their own.

Allow Privacy Mother-daughter conflict often centers around issues of independence and autonomy. Socializing with peers, talking on the phone and emailing, writing private thoughts in a journal are all ways of learning about oneself and others. It's practice for being an independent woman with independent thoughts. Daughters often tell me that they feel so guilty when they fight or are mean to their mom, but sometimes they just feel that moms are too intrusive.

Respond When She Needs Help As a parent, it hurts to see your daughter unhappy or worried, but try to resist the urge to fix every little problem. Instead, focus on helping her find her own solutions. When she is given a choice in the matters that affect her slowly but surely, she will grow into a good problem-solver. Ask her: What are you going to do? Is there anything you'd like me to do?

Encourage Her to Express Her View Point Don't freak out or get mad if she expresses thoughts and feelings that you don't approve of. While her thinking may not be perfect, she doesn't need you to point out how wrong she is. An open discussion allows her to think out loud, explore her thoughts and feelings, and work them through without rebelling. When allowed to express her opinion and intentions, she often finds a middle ground. Moms who allow open conversation, respect privacy, listen to the daughter's point of view and give choices are able to find a healthy balance between independence and closeness.

Focus on What Your Daughter is Doing Right When a teen girl messes up, don't blow it out of proportion. Many teen girls believe mothers expect them to be perfect, and while moms deny that, often mom's standards are so high that when the daughter messes up, the mom blows up or shows significant disapproval. The teen is left feeling that she can never do anything right.

Make Amends You will have disagreements and quarrels. No need to freak out if you remember that your daughter feels as devastated by these quarrels as you do. As mothers, it is our responsibility to make the first move toward making amends. Your daughter may never show you how hurt she really is. She might be afraid that if she approaches you, it will open the whole mess up again. Apologies are important because years from now you will not remember what most of your quarrels were about, but you will remember that you forgave each other and made up.

About the Author

Judy Ford, a trained professional with heart, soul, and life experience, is a nationally recognized family counselor and best selling author of Wonderful Ways to Love a Child, Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen: Even When it Seems Impossible. She has dedicated her life to family healing and wholeness. Her Parenting with Love and Laughter workshops have been attended by thousands. She has appeared on Oprah, CNN, NPR. Articles on her work appear in O Magazine, Redbook, Family Circle.