Moms and Teen Girls Article…
How to Survive Your Daughter’s Teen Years
By Kyanna Sutton, FamilyEducation.com
The surging hormones and emotional changes that frame our daughters’ adolescence can feel like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes the “terrible teens” can dim the glow of the most confident moms. Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, co-author of I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You!: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict, offers her advice for bridging the mother-daughter divide during your daughter’s teen years.
Q: What’s the best way for mothers to handle a daughter’s insulting outburst?
A: The most important thing for moms to remember during an outburst is to refrain from responding in kind. No matter what, moms need to stay in control in order to avoid having an argument escalate into a hurtful, ugly fight. To stop this from happening, moms might say, “I won’t discuss this with you until you can talk civilly,” and walk away. Later, moms and daughters can talk about whether there was any truth to the accusation. Most important, it’s an opportunity for moms to teach their daughters that how they say something is just as important as what they say.
Q: Many teen girls complain that their mothers don’t listen or respect what they have to say. How can daughters work on improving communication with their moms?
A: To improve communication with their moms, girls should choose their battles carefully (confronting their moms only when an issue is valid and important) and find a good time for a talk (not when moms walk in the door after work, after a disturbing phone call, or when she’s rushing off to an appointment).
Girls should use a respectful tone of voice, and remember to listen carefully to what their moms say, too. Sometimes, they might have to say, “Mom, there’s something really important I want to talk to you about. When would be a good time for you to listen to me?”
Moms need to be careful to not bring up these pointers for girls out of the clear blue sky, because they’re likely to be met with rolled eyes. It might be better to wait until after a confrontation or argument and you’re talking it over later. Mom can say that she is glad her daughter is bringing the issue to her attention, but she has some suggestions on how her daughter could be more effective–with people in general, not just mom.
To encourage her teenager, mom should make sure she does respond when daughters make an effort to improve their communication skills. Doing their part to improve communication will serve them well in other relationships in their lives.
I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You!
Interview with Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict
Moderator: Dr. Cohen-Sandler, welcome to WebMD Live. Why did you decide to write a book about mother-daughter relationships during the teen years?
Dr. Cohen-Sandler: I had been seeing adolescent girls and their moms in therapy for about 20 years at that point. One of the things that struck me is that teenage girls have a very difficult time acknowledging, much less dealing with their anger and other strong emotions. And, the mother, historically, had a difficult time dealing with the same issue. In this culture, women are socialized not to make waves, speak up, and to swallow their voices in order not to make waves. However, during adolescence, it becomes a problem because girls so often take out their anger and disappointment on their mothers. And mothers feel ill-equipped to manage their daughter’s anger.
Moderator: Why do they take their anger out on their mothers?
Dr. Cohen-Sandler: Because their mothers are their safest and most available targets. Because girls know that if they express anger at their teachers or especially at their peers, they will be shunned. But their mothers, who love them unconditionally, will not, for example, tell everyone else in the family, “she’s a loser, don’t let her sit at the dinner table!” (Laughs!) And so girls know that they can express anger towards their moms. But moms need help to figure out how they can best teach girls to channel their anger constructively. This is important as girls grow up, leave home, and form relationships. Mothers want their daughters to speak up, to protect themselves in relationships and to be able to express anger constructively so that they’re also not inciting violence.
Moderator: Do girls get the message that mom will take it?
Dr. Cohen-Sandler: Exactly right. Because moms so often feel that if they deal with the anger, and heaven forbid, they should have some of those same feelings toward their daughter, that they’re being ‘unmaternal’ or not a good mother. I once had a mother, an educator, with two teenage daughters who asked me, “Do you ever get angry at your children?” I fell over and said, “Of course! By the hour!” But she was shocked because in her mind, anger was synonymous with being a bad mother. The important thing for moms to know and to teach their daughters is that anger is a perfectly normal human emotion. And that if you’re in a close relationship with someone, it’s probably inevitable. But you need to know how to handle the anger so that you can stay connected in the relationship and not harm the relationship or the people in it.
Moderator: But aren’t girls getting angrier earlier now? Aren’t they starting to have adolescent-type crises during their pre-adolescent years?
Dr. Cohen-Sandler: The truth is that girls are experiencing puberty earlier and earlier, so many of the emotional issues that used to start at 11 or 12 are now starting at nine or 10 — the over-sensitivity, the self-consciousness, irritability, moodiness. Anger is only one of those emotions. And, yes, mothers ARE reporting that their daughters are showing signs of adolescence while many are still in elementary school.