How to Get Your Daughter to Talk with You
“There’s no point in talking to you: you don’t understand me. You don’t even know me.” a teen spats a her mum.
How does it happen that the child you gave birth to, who you nursed, wiped the bottom of, and whose snot and spit you cleaned up over several sleep-starved years suddenly apprehends you with a mixture of boredom and irritation and say, ‘Get a life, Mum.’ Few things can shake up a parents confidence as much as the onset of your child’s teenage years and adolescence. In this world where teens rather communicate via text, it is more important than ever to establish a healthy trusting relationship between you. But how to do it in a world where teens so easily reject parental interference? While they’re an open book to their friends, who they talk to constantly via text messages and social media, they might become mute when asked by mom how their day went. Here are some tips that might assist you in navigating the terrain.
1. How to Open The Door Gently
More than anything, girls say they want to know that you care. I know you’re starting to feel like eye rolls are becoming second nature for your daughter. But believe it or not, she needs to know that how she feels and what she’s challenged by matter to you — far more than you might think! So yes, reach out to her and ask questions. The trick seems to be starting small and easy, and letting her know you’re there for her without pushing.
2. Create A No-Judgment Zone
Shame and blame seem to be the most sure-fire ways to kill any incentive for your daughters to talk openly with you. But if you can create a no-judgment zone where they feel safe enough to tell the truth, and where they know you’ll love and accept them no matter what they share, the girls all agree they are far more likely to open up.
“What’s More Important: Your Ego or Hearing Your Child?”
Of course they know this doesn’t mean you’re not going to have discussions on touchier topics like sex, drinking, and friends of hers you have concerns about— or anything else that’s sensitive! Nothing here is about giving your daughter a free pass to get away with setting her own rules in the house or dictating the terms of what is acceptable for her. But from the girls’ perspectives, what seems to work best is if you bring up these conversations at a neutral time, and not in a way that will make your daughter afraid to come to you to talk about her feelings or experiences.
3. Never Use Her Truth Against Her
A big fear girls have talked about that prevents them from telling their moms the truth is having the information somehow used against them. For instance, a 15-year-old girl named Rebecca shared that when she told her mom she was thinking about becoming sexually active with her boyfriend, her mom then prevented her from seeing him. After that, Rebecca decided to keep her private thoughts to herself.
What the girls say helps lift the fear and enables them to share things with their mothers is having an understanding in place before things occur. For example, 16-year-old Melinda said she called her mom from a party where she felt she was in a compromised position. Melinda had the security of knowing her mom would support her, because she had made a deal in advance that if she ever needed it, her mom would come pick her up, no questions asked (at least, not right then and there), no lecturing her or making her feel ashamed — or worse, preventing her from going to a party ever again.
Again, the girls are not saying they feel they can just do anything they want without boundaries, and they don’t expect their moms not to try to keep them safe — they know that’s a mother’s job! They just want to come up with a code with their mothers for those moments when they need help the most.
4. Show Her You’re Human, Too
Obviously there are certain things that aren’t appropriate for your daughter to know about you, but so many girls have shared that seeing the human side of their mothers comforts them and creates a beautiful intimacy they treasure. Allowing your daughter to know some of your own vulnerabilities, insecurities or challenges don’t diminish your role as an authority figure. In fact, our girl’s say it’s what allows them to have even more empathy and respect for their mothers and how they’ve handled situations.
5. Stay Calm
So many girls say their moms tell them they can share anything with them, but when the girls actually reveal something that might be upsetting or even shocking, their moms fly off the handle.
It goes like this:
Fear of your reaction equals them shutting down.
I know it’s probably so hard to stay calm if your daughter is telling you something that’s hard to hear, especially if it’s something that’s hurtful or harmful to her, but she only feels safe enough to reveal what’s on her mind and in her heart if it will be received in a calm way. Yes, in those moments when everything in you wants to flip out but instead you take contrary action, you will deserve an Oscar® for your performance! But we want you to get the relationship you are craving, right?
6. Don’t Rush To Fix The Problem
A lot of moms have told me the hardest thing is to watch their babies in pain (I know from my own mom how true that is). It’s understandable that the first thing you want to do is make it all okay and solve the problem, but the girls want you to know that, sometimes, just being heard by their loving mom is the strength your daughter needs to find her way.
The pressure you put on yourself can indeed be lifted — you don’t always have to have the perfect answer or magical remedy. Just feeling your belief in her lets her know it is all going to be okay; deep down that’s what makes her feel safe.
Ultimately, what the girls want is for moms to listen to them. Just listen like no one else on the planet would, without necessarily jumping right in and trying to fix their problems for them. Listen in a way that lets your daughter know there is nowhere you would rather be and no one you would rather be with.
In a way, it kind of comes down to finding that delicate balance between being a mom and being a friend, doesn’t it? Yes, this is the time when they are individuating and need to fly, but at the same time, the girls say deep down they need their mothers now more than ever — the ways just might be different than when they were little.