Although my relationship with my young teen daughter is still very connected, I am conscious of looking for ways to maintain that bond, no matter what lies ahead. I know that my role as a parent is morphing from one of managing my daughter to more of a coaching or consulting role as she grows into adulthood. Throughout this metamorphosis, though, I never want to lose our link because even if our children claim otherwise, they need us and want our influence in their lives.
Here are nine tips from the trenches to help you preserve and strengthen your bond with your girl as she moves through this developmental phase.
1. Use your daughter's body clock changes to your advantage.
According to author and counselor Michael Riera, Ph.D., in his book, Staying Connected to Your Teenager, "Teenagers open up most naturally late at night, and wise parents take advantage of this reality." Maybe you can watch movies together late into the night. Or perhaps you can set your alarm and join her for a late impromptu chat when she is no longer busy with friends.
2. Are you avid readers?
Think about starting a mother daughter book club to capitalize on your love of literature as a way to have a shared experience. If coordinating a book club is too much, simply start reading the books that she is reading.
3. Practice gratitude together.
Consider starting a gratitude journal together. Give your daughter one page and you take the other and then read back to each other what you're thankful for. It can provide some great insight into her character.
4. Use humor and horseplay.
It's easy to get exasperated with things your kids say and lecture them. But if you turn it into something ridiculous or funny, they can laugh, then get it.
5. Try to assess her actions.
Just as your child was communicating to you when she had tantrums as a toddler, your teen is trying to say something with her "bad" behavior. Be careful to separate your disapproval of her actions from your approval of her as a person.
6. Find an activity to do together.
Take a yoga class together. Learn to make pottery. It doesn't matter. Just pick something you're both interested in and do it together.
7. Show some respect.
If you treat your kids with the same respect that you show adults, it comes back eventually. Although seemingly simple advice, this can be challenging when you are opposed to your daughter's choices. Try to respect her right to choose, even if you disagree with the choice.
8. Plan a mother daughter trip.
This does not have to break the bank, it can be as simple as a picnic, or a day trip to a new location. A change of scenery can lead to more relaxed or improved communication.
9. Counter any negative media messages about "horrible teens."
Remind your daughter of her accomplishments and support her as she practices becoming an adult with your guidance.