Ideas for Strengthening the Mother-Daughter Bond
(ARA) - For many little girls,
Mothers Day was a time to pick flowers, make a handmade
card, and hand-deliver them with hugs and kisses. But as these
girls mature into independent women, sweet, unconditional feelings
of love can change, possibly leading to bittersweet relationships
between a mother and a daughter.
Even celebrities such as Jennifer
Aniston, Drew Barrymore, and Meg Ryan have had well-publicized,
toxic relationships with their mothers for a variety of reasons
beyond their fame. And when Mothers Day arrives each year,
how do estranged mothers and daughters handle that day? Is it
too late for them to heal a broken relationship as adults?
Past literature shows that
the mother-daughter relationship is considered the most significant
of all intergenerational relationships, says Dr. Mudita
Rastogi, associate professor of psychology at Argosy University/Chicago
and a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Estrangement between a
mother and a daughter is a combination of individual, familial,
and societal factors, says Dr. Rastogi. And the reasons
why mothers and daughters become estranged can be varied and
For example, the mothers
generation may have included social aspects such as: economic
depression, nuclear families, early marriage, and basic education.
However, as society changes and evolves, the daughter may grow
up in a completely different culture -- in a robust economy,
varied family structures, delayed marriage, immediate focus on
a career, and higher education.
According to research conducted
by Dr. Rastogi, involving more than 150 women ages 25 to 35,
significant variations exist between ethnic groups in their mother-daughter
relationship. Euro-American women want to do fun activities with
their mothers, but also want to maintain certain boundaries.
Asian-Indian and African-American women generally turn to their
mothers for support, wisdom, and advice. Mexican-American women
want to be dutiful daughters and help their mothers.
Even though these ethnic
groups varied somewhat in terms of relationships, all of the
women in the study wished for the same level of connectedness
with their mothers, says Dr. Rastogi. Almost all
of the women reported that they wanted respect and trust in their
relationship with their mothers.
According to Dr. Karen Eriksen,
department head of counseling psychology at Argosy University/Orange
County, some societal conditions lay the groundwork for the development
of mother-daughter conflict. For instance, society expects women
to be good mothers; if they fail, they are considered bad
women. Mothers, rather than fathers, are held responsible
for good parenting, says Dr. Eriksen. In some instances,
women havent been well-prepared for these parenting responsibilities.
Other pressures emerge for single
mothers left alone to raise their daughters. Mother-daughter
relationships may suffer when the single mothers begin seriously
dating and try to find a way for a new partner to enter the family
system. The daughter may experience a sense of betrayal, and
may worry that she is losing her mother to someone else.
Resolution of these struggles
requires the efforts of both mothers and daughters, says
Dr. Eriksen. Daughters always need their mothers to be
parents. They need their mothers to take some of the steps in
mending the relationship.
"Mothers, on the other hand,
need great understanding and forgiveness from their daughters
given the inequities in some of societys expectations.
Both mothers and daughters could
use Mothers Day as an opportunity to embark on a journey
toward a more fulfilling relationship, realizing that as they
navigate toward this goal, they may veer off course.
As complex as mother-daughter
relationships can be, working on existing problems is not out
of reach. Below are more tips that mothers and daughters can
use to start the healing process and improve their relationship
this Mothers Day:
Tips for Mothers and Daughters
to Make Amends
* For minor conflicts, daughters
should try to understand the life circumstances, challenges,
and choices that were made available to their mothers.
* Start mother-daughter traditions
-- its never too late to begin new ones -- and make a promise
to keep the traditions alive every year (why not every Mothers
Day). Traditions can include simple activities such as long walks,
dinner at a favorite restaurant, or updating family photo albums.
* Join a womens group or
look into family therapy together to help resolve serious long-standing
* Realize that all relationships
have downsides. Mother and daughter should focus on the positive
aspects of their relationship and invest time and energy in it.
* Mothers and daughters should
recognize that all choices can come with negative and positive
results. Regardless of social or ethnic backgrounds, pay attention
to the intentions behind the choices.