All relationships need nurturing to be healthy and thrive. However, the mother-adult daughter relationship is in particular need of ongoing purposeful nurturing.
This relationship is an intense, unique bond that is influential in the lives of both women. Sadly, it can also be complex, challenging, and even toxic. A dysfunctional mother-adult-daughter relationship can adversely affect both women for the rest of their lives.
Surprisingly, guidance and support on how to navigate this important relationship are rare. In addition, few understand that this relationship is heavily influenced by generational differences, societal expectations, and women’s unspoken needs that are rarely acknowledged and explored.
Therefore, today I am sharing 4 meaningful ways to nurture and strengthen your mother-adult daughter relationship regardless of where it stands right now.
1. Appreciate that you are a woman first and a mother and/or adult daughter second.
You must nurture the relationship with yourself before creating a more authentic relationship with another person. If you want to connect with people wholeheartedly, you need to accept yourself wholeheartedly first.
Deepen the self-awareness of who you are, your strengths, passions, and desires. Also, explore the struggles you have and how you feel about yourself.
Do you like yourself or are you critical and judgmental towards yourself? Be curious about where these beliefs and behaviors came from. Are they valid or can you let them go, especially if they are not having a positive impact on your life? Starting to notice this is a great first step because it is often so unconscious.
Once we become more aware of how we relate to ourselves, we can reflect on what effect it’s having, and how we want to change. We can always learn to love ourselves more and show some self-compassion for the difficulties we have experienced. Ultimately, your goal is to become your own best friend. Only then are you ready to be an empowered participant in any other relationship you have?
2. Learn how to speak to and hear each other with positive intentions.
Learning to listen to another person takes effort and patience. Usually, we say we are listening when really, we are waiting for the opportunity to start talking about ourselves, our thoughts, our complaints, etc. We really can be very self-absorbed and therefore are not listening to the other person.
A person knows when they have been listened to because they feel heard, understood, and valued by you. This is the feeling you want to create in your mother-adult daughter relationship.
Be mindful of your language, tone, and intention when speaking to each other. Remember you are two grown-up women deserving of equality and respect without the need for any power struggles.
3. Take turns speaking your truths.
When having emotional conversations, agree to speak in a kind voice and use the ‘I statement’ to explain how you have experienced something and how it made you feel. You can also suggest what you would have liked to have happened and share ideas for how interactions could be more positive going forward. This allows each person to be heard and understood and aim to move forward with new ways of being in a relationship with each other.
Take turns to speak. Allow each other the time and space to speak without interruption. When they finish, you can check with them if they have finished, you can summarize what you felt you heard, and ask for confirmation or clarification. Having the courage to have open and real conversations without getting defensive is a significant factor in strengthening the relationship.
4. Share your lived experiences in a way that informs and assists understanding.
The mother-adult-daughter relationship is influenced and challenged by generational and societal differences. Both facts are beyond the control of mother-adult-daughter couples.
It is important to share your generational and societal experiences. You can listen with compassionate understanding although you do not necessarily have to agree. It’s about really seeing the other person’s life experience.
It is important that both step into each other’s shoes to get an understanding of what each generational and societal pathway was like. For example, over 40 years ago many women were deprived of education and were financially trapped. Putting yourself in her shoes might help you understand the struggles and difficult choices that had to be made because of those barriers.
In contrast, younger women today have societal pressure to be educated, work full time, be financially sound and be mostly responsible for child rearing (spoken or unspoken). Try putting on her shoes to get an understanding of the struggles and difficult choices that are required here also.
5. Commit to regular meetups together and have fun.
When you meet, don’t let yourself get caught up in complaining and negativity during your quality time together. This is about nurturing your relationship and is an opportunity to share what you admire about each other. This helps to deal with any unconscious resentment of anger that may be rising because of some opportunities that you possibly didn’t get.
Yes, there will also be serious conversations at times however most of the time you want these meetups to have a positive energizing impact on each other and enjoy building each other up. Women supporting other women is truly empowering.
Overall, it is important to have realistic expectations of what your mother-adult daughter relationship can be. We cannot change the past, but we can get an understanding of it and choose a positive nurturing pathway forward for our unique mother-adult-daughter relationships.