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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a bittersweet gift — participating in as well as guiding your daughter to become a young adult. She may look to you as knowing what to do while you may be wondering how to wing it. Try these few ideas to encourage a deeper genuine bond during these potentially turbulent times.
1. Make room for growth
She needs a mother, not a BFF — which means nurturing and leadership and role modeling about what a value-based woman is and does, then letting her develop that for herself by showing trust and respect.
No problem. Some helpful ways include:
- Ask her opinion, then truly listen to her responses. From small to big things, meal planning for a family get-together to vacation destinations, encourage her to think independently and share freely.
- Validate this stage of change. Acknowledge that her loving feelings for you will ebb and flow (depending greatly on hormones) and that this is normal (albeit annoying). As you provide a solid emotional anchor, she will take confidence from that, which will in turn increase her ability to cope with the surging and mixed emotions.
- Express the good in who she is and what she does. Unwittingly, as parents we tend to criticize or command before we express gratitude for good things. Over the next few days, perhaps, try adding “Thanks for …” before making a request. For example, “Thanks for feeding the dog … would you please empty the dishwasher?”
2. Connect through daily moments
Bonding doesn’t have to be a deal. We can simply seek awareness for those moments already in the schedule. I connect with one daughter through doing her hair each morning, chatting as we go; with another we talk at night for a Chair Chat when she has her “second wind” of energy; with another daughter we snuggle in the morning while the older children get ready. It’s a few minutes, but it gives them the emotional grounding to move forward.
3. Marinate her in love
In an old movie, I remember a character saying, “I think children ought to just marinate in love.” Showing and not just telling them helps to create a deeper connection. I’ve learned that when I know how to comfort my daughters — their favorite treat, self-soothing behavior or love language — they feel loved. On really stressful days, it’s helpful for me to surprise them by emptying their dishwasher or texting an inspirational thought.
Another "bonder" is to schedule a regular connection time related to one of their activities. Maybe it’s chatting on the drive to piano lessons, or stopping for a Cold Stone on the third Thursday after a special class meeting, or doing DIY on the first Saturday of the month. Whatever it may be, try to create a new tradition around an existing activity for more one-on-one time.
4. Get the skinny
Talking right after an activity or experience has great payoffs. Asking key questions — "How did it go?", "Who was there?","What was your favorite part?", etc. — helps get the conversation rolling. And despite the difficulty for us aging parents, waiting up at night is crucial to your child’s well-being. In the book "Power Parenting" by Randal Wright, the author shares a study that says only 16 percent of teenagers' parents consistently wait up for their children (Gulp — not that falling asleep has happened to me. At all). But regularly staying up and finding out correlates to kids avoiding alcohol, drugs and promiscuity.
5. Create special shared experiences
These will be less frequent as they’re big-ticket items — dance camp competition, choir tour, etc. But these deeper experiences create cooperative opportunities, instill confidence and engender respect and trust as you rely on one another. They give her opportunities to make independent decisions with “reasonable risks” and see the outcome.
When my daughter, baby and I traveled to France last year, we needed to rely on one another while dealing with travel, language barriers and new situations. As we learned, laughed and even cried our way through them, keeper connections formed between my daughter and I that fabulously continue to bear fruit.
Whichever way you choose to connect, weaving natural and existing bonding moments through your day can yield a wonderfully warm and fulfilling relationship no matter the stage of life.
Connie Sokol is an author, speaker, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com.