At thirteen, my daughter Diana morphed from a precocious, curious, linguistically gifted child who belted out Disney songs to a caterwauling vixen who spewed strings of hateful vitriol in nonstop tirades. Stomping through rooms dressed in black jeans and Emo t-shirts, her hair a long, straight shock of black and maroon, she listened to a steady stream of Evanescence and Avril Lavigne, wrote disturbing musings in her notebooks, and refused to unlock her bedroom door.
All mothers and daughters argue about clothes, music, boys, and hair, but the tension between us went deeper. Our blended family was coping with difficult circumstances, from divorce and financial problems to the loss of our house. I now understand Diana was trying to deal with the same complicated issues that I was, but without a foundation of emotional maturity. It took time, but we eventually found our way across the great teenage divide.
Today, everything is different. I’m 65 and heading towards retirement while Diana is 26, newly engaged and a successful journalist. We talk daily and support each another, and we choose our words carefully when we speak. We also do our best to center on healthy sibling relationships with her brothers, as we are now proud of our family.
6 Ways to Fix a Relationship With My Teen
Here’s what I learned from my own experience that might benefit other moms who are struggling to heal the rift with their daughters:
1. Get help.
You and your daughter might need a therapist. It can be hard to determine on your own if your adolescent is going through the typical angst of the teen years or is experiencing a mood disorder like depression. You can benefit from finding a professional who can help you both, whether together or separately. Your daughter, especially, may need to find a trusted social worker or psychologist who believes in her and can give her hope.
2. Stop acting like a teenager.
If you think you can out scream your daughter, think again. She will beat you down and leave you breathless with her stamina. Don’t get into shouting matches, and don’t slam doors and stomp through the house in an attempt to out maneuver her. You’ll lose. You’re the adult, so stay calm and listen. Sit on your hands, count to 10, say a prayer or think positive thoughts. The more you yell, the more you will empower your daughter to confront you. Diana tells me today that she felt an invitation to argue more when I pushed back.
3. Investigate if you’re suspicious.
If I hadn’t read Diana’s diary, I would never have known what was really happening with her. She was too afraid to tell me because she thought she’d get in trouble. It’s not a breach of trust to snoop when you have concerns, it’s making sure she’s safe. The flip side of this is understanding that your daughter needs to develop her own autonomy and privacy, so be careful that for any invasion of privacy, you have a good reason.
4. Fill your home with friends.
Reach out to female friends, yours and hers. At our house, the dinner table was always crowded with kids. When those young people grew up, they came back to tell Diana and me what it meant to them to be part of our family. More importantly, it allowed Diana to feel cared for and it allowed me to understand who she was growing up around.
5. Distance yourself.
Whether it’s a different house, a dorm room, an apartment, an aunt’s summer home, it’s good to physically separate you and your daughter sometimes. You’ll find that the constant fighting was about power and control. If she needs to live in a different environment, encourage that. It gives you a way to detangle your personalities and get some distance.
6. Learn to say, “I’m sorry.”
Moms aren’t always right. We make mistakes. We mishandle situations and say or do the wrong thing. It’s important to understand that this is not an equal relationship: You are the adult and she is the child, even if she’s cussing, yelling, throwing fits or sneaking out like she rules the world. You must place your pride and pain to the side, especially if you’ve said something hurtful or inappropriate. If you don’t handle something well, express regret and vulnerability by admitting it.
The work of healing the rift with our children isn’t only ours to do, but these steps are what worked for me. It’s how my daughter became my friend for life.