An Excerpt from Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today's New Mother-Daughter Relationship
I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and then advise them to do it.
— Harry Truman
We believe mothers and their adult daughters can't be best friends, but they can develop a gratifying relationship. Turbulence happens when a mother can't accept her daughter as an adult. The basic question for mothers is: Do you trust your daughter to be an independent and self-sufficient woman? And can you support her in making choices and doing things differently from how you would do them? Control is elusive, even when your daughter is younger, and it certainly is less appropriate when she is an adult. One of the most important messages you can give to your daughter is your permission to let her be herself, and as she becomes an adult, you should expect that same acceptance from her.
We want to avoid some of the dysfunctional patterns that may have occurred when our daughters were younger. What we say to our daughter as an adult, she may still hear with the ears of her younger self. We have to be more cautious with adult daughters, because we want them to hear us with their adult selves. According to Jane Isay, author of Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents, parents should "keep their mouths shut and their doors open."
All of us have to accept at this point in our child's development that we did the best we could, and we should not focus our attention on "what could have been," or be filled with regrets. Instead, we have to keep our focus on what's really important: maintaining a good relationship. We want to establish elements of a friendship, intimacy, mutual respect, respectful interdependence, and sharing the good and bad times, understanding that our primary role is that of mother, and not best friend. No one else can occupy that space. This should be payoff time, when you are still healthy and vital, and she is, finally, an adult.
- Basic principles for parenting adult daughters
- Strategy 1: Give advice only when asked.
- Strategy 2: Be an active listener.
- Strategy 3: Develop and maintain appropriate boundaries.
- Strategy 4: Accept your daughter for who she is.
- Strategy 5: Accept being a perfectly imperfect mother.
- Strategy 6: Step back, but don't disengage.
- Strategy 7: Treat your daughter as an adult.
- Strategy 8: Have fun together!
- Strategy 9: Develop and maintain respectful interdependence.
- Strategy 10: Respect your daughter's new family.
- Strategy 11: Be the grandmother, not the mother.
- Strategy 12: Don't personalize your daughter's disappointments.
- Strategy 13: Maintain the mother-daughter bond.
- Advice for daughters