My daughter is 15-years-old. No matter what I do and no matter how hard I try she seems to despise me! The problem is, I keep trying. I send her kind texts and she doesn’t respond back. I take her to get those crazy drinks that we used to just call coffee and I barely get a thank you.
Just recently she had a birthday and I posted a picture wishing her a happy birthday to tell her how much I loved her. She responded to everyone else’s comments, but nothing to me. I did get a ‘Like’ from her, but that felt like a slap in the face. On the same day I noticed another mom posting a birthday picture to her daughter and the daughter responded with a, “Thank you sooo much mom. I love you!” Ouch.
I am not sure what my question is, but I know I am feeling like I have done something wrong. Can you help me with this?
Down and Out
Dear Down and Out,
Remember when our kiddos turned two and everyone you talked to did that deep sigh thing and even rolled their eyes a bit knowing the choppy waters you were about to enter? You have returned to the waters. The difference is your two-year-old stayed in the boat and your fifteen-year-old has jumped off. Welcome to the teen years.
Just like in any storm, it too shall pass, but what we do in the middle of the storm can be the difference between surviving and capsizing.
First off, you are not alone. Yes, you will find girls that show signs of kindness to their mom, and I am guessing there are moments when you see glimmers of connection and kindness too, but don’t compare yourself to anyone during this time. There are many different reasons for girls to stay close to their moms during the teen years, and they are not always healthy. This is the time for teens to push away, test the boundaries and strive for independence, so know that what you are experiencing is developmentally normal.
Second, you are feeling the hurt and growing pains that moms experience as our little bundles of joy become less little and less joyful. We long for that sweet girl in pigtails to look at us and say, “Mommy, I love you!” followed by a big hug that can last for what seems like forever. Bubble popped, that time has passed and boy does it hurt! We now get rolling eyes, door slamming and the cold shoulder. This can be infuriating!
Be aware of the feelings under the frustration and anger; I promise it is fear and sadness. We fear that we are raising a cruel and mean girl and we are sad because we are slowly watching our girls grow up and leave the nest. Knowing it is fear and sadness, we can take a deep breath, call a friend to vent, cry and process and then put on our armor to join the battle field again.
Third, our children need our strength. If we go back to the boat analogy, they are swimming in difficult waters (hormone changes, brain changes, body image, relationship, academics, and on, and on, and on!) They don’t need our hurt and angry feelings, they need our strength; they need us to be their anchor when they are feeling out of control. If we role model strength, they will learn to use that as their coping mechanism. But too often we jump into the out of control waters with them which only forces them to swim further away. Stay in the boat and be their anchor.
Fourth, focus on what you want your daughter to learn. If we can take off our emotional hat and put on our teaching one, we will help our daughters learn from the experience. But instead, if we become angry and escalated we have put ourselves in the crazy corner and our girls only learn that we are crazy. In order for our daughters to learn, we must stay calm and firm.
Fifth, pick your battles and when you do, set the boundary. We set boundaries to teach respect, responsibility, health and safety. If you feel your daughter has crossed the line hold her accountable. That is how we become their anchor. When she is not being respectful, teach her, when she is not being responsible, teach her and whenhen she is not being healthy or safe, teach her. She is feeling out of control and she is looking for you to anchor her.
So when you send your daughter a nice text and she does not text back, decide if that is a battle you want to fight or if you can chalk it up to needing to push away from mom a bit. If you buy her a crazy coffee drink and she does not say thank you, teach her about the importance of respect when people do nice things for her. And if you post a picture on social media and she doesn’t respond, ask yourself why you are upset. We can’t become the teachers our children need unless we fully understand the feelings we have behind our reactions.
Most importantly, no matter how mad she gets and no matter how hard she pushes you away, remember, she does need you. It is just different than how she used to need you. Be her anchor and once the storm has passed you can get back in the boat together.
Hang in there,