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Mother Daughter Relationships: Staying Close When She Pulls Away

Growing up brings many new and exciting life adventures! Your daughter is caught between childhood and adulthood. Read about making it a joyful time.

Daughters are trying to establish their independence while dealing with changing relationships and the changes in their bodies — this can be awkward for her. But sticking by her side through the ups and the downs will only bring you closer.

According to Rachel Simmons, author of “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence,” it can be difficult dealing with teenagers.

“One minute she wants nothing to do with [mom]; the next she wants to cuddle,” Simmons says. “It’s infuriating for parents, and it’s hard to balance being there for them with letting them become more independent.”

It can be tempting to accept that she doesn’t want to talk. But talking with her about puberty and keeping the conversation flowing is key to her mental health. According to Elissa Stein and Susan Kim who wrote “Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation,” up to 10 percent of girls still get their first period and don’t have any idea what’s going on! What’s worse is that many college women they surveyed also demonstrated a lack of understanding about menstruation.

The silence and embarrassment over our bodily functions have made it hard to make sure girls know the important stuff and how to tell fact from myth. It doesn’t have to be that way. Dr. Robyn Fivush has been studying what keeps families together.

“Adolescents who have secure relationships with both parents and whose parents engage in a great deal of parental monitoring thrive,” Dr. Fivush says.

That means getting dad involved, too. Since, as Dr. Fivush pointed out, dads tend to pull away from their daughters once they hit puberty.

Simmons agrees that dad’s involvement is crucial.

“Dads give girls permission to be strong and buck the gender roles about how girls are supposed to act,” Simmons says. “But the moment you’re developing sexual characteristics is the moment where dad feels like he doesn’t belong anymore.”

We all know we’re supposed to be there for our daughters whenever they need us. What’s harder to know is what we can say that will help them. Fortunately, Dr. Fivush did the research on that. It turns out that the single most important thing you can do is also one of the simplest: Tell your daughter stories about your life and how you dealt with problems and issues growing up.

“What we’re seeing in our research is that girls sharing their stories is highly related to their self-esteem and their psychological well-being,” Dr.Fivush says. “So sharing stories about the daughter’s experience and about the mother’s experience gives models and frameworks for who the daughter is in the world.”

Easy, right? Of course, some stories end better than others. Check out the next article for more tips from Always on How to Tell Powerful Stories.


  • “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence”by Rachel Simmons

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