Shame and blame seem to be the most surefire 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.

Of course they know this doesn't mean you're not going to have discussions on touchier topics like sex, drinking, 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.

Let's take a look at what some of the girls had to say about fear of judgment:

"My boyfriend was doing drugs, which I hid from my mom for awhile because I feared she'd judge me and be angry rather than sympathetic. But finally I got so stressed out that I confided in her. At first she couldn't understand why I would compromise my morals to be with someone of such low character, but when she saw the distress I was in, she put aside her 'mom persona' to comfort me and assure me everything would be all right. What she ended up showing me is that she loves and accepts me, even if I don't always make perfect choices. This led to me knowing I could have other meaningful talks with her about the whole thing." — Jacquie, age 16

"It definitely closed the door for my friend when her mom put a negative emphasis on things before even knowing what her daughter experienced—things like, 'Have you heard about that girl in your grade who's slept with three people already by senior year?' Little does this mother know her daughter may have slept with five people, and now she's scared to admit that to her mom." — Sydney, age 17

"My mother views showing emotion as weakness, while I, on the other hand, am very emotional. I've always felt like an embarrassment to her when I was feeling hurt or scared about something, so of course I don't go to her when I'm feeling any of those things." — Ann-Marie, age 18

Next: Never use her truth against her


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