Insight on Co-Parenting a Teenage Daughter

How many mothers recall the thrill of birthing a daughter? A little female child may consciously or unconsciously recall your own maternal relationship and a wish to replicate or remediate your early experiences.

The once delightful and often cooperative little girl enters puberty with a bang! Adolescence and the attendant hormonal changes recapitulate the “terrible twos” in your daughter’s life which is characterized by the alternating “push and pull.” Your teen daughter wants aloneness and easily regresses to a snuggling little girl with mom and a “daddy’s little girl” or on the team against mom. The whirlwind of emotions takes the mother and daughter on a wild teen roller coaster ride.

Co-Parent mom – it is your job to hang on and white knuckle it with your daughter.  The most important element is love and reassurance that you love her no matter what mistakes she makes, you are there for her always… even when she pushes you away. You might not love her behavior, but you love her and will remain an anchor as a strong and reliable parent.

The issues swirling about your adolescent daughter are those of identity, body image/development, peers/peer pressure, emerging sexuality, recreational drug/alcohol use and conflict resolution. Today’s teens face the techno-media inundation with cell phones, texting, sexting, social networking and computerized everything. Issues surrounding social media sites, predators, shaming, outing and bullying can and do occur.

Be there for your teen, discuss their presence on social media sites and try to keep your teen from believing that “likes” of a photo might feel good, but it  isn’t the same as liking a human being in a personal relationship that values time spent together. Seeing a documentary like “Screenagers” together is a helpful tool for discussion.

What can you do?  Be there, be present and offer your support when needed. Seek out the advice of a therapist if you suspect serious issues with school performance, drugs, alcohol, eating, sexuality issues, gender identity, depression and peer relationships.  Do not be afraid to face issues, be patient and try not to criticize as your daughter has too many of her own self-esteem bugaboos fighting in her head.

Respect your teen’s privacy needs and normative distancing. Buy a journal for her thoughts, don’t be intrusive, foster independence and healthy space.  Teach problem solving techniques and conflict resolution skills – accomplished by giving appropriate choices to make good decisions.

Let your daughter know that contradictory feelings are normal for teens – daughters want to stay close to their moms while branching out on their own.  It’s okay – it’s adolescence.

Always try to focus on the positive – what is your teen daughter doing correctly?  Picking at your daughter’s behaviors drives a huge wedge between you and her own expectations. Family stress with a teen emanates from pressures: school, peers and cultural. Peers are inexperienced and have narrow vision, but a wise mom is a great asset; don’t push your wisdom on your daughter, be gentle with your advice and stay rooted and calm when she is angry and doesn’t want your ministrations.

Always find a way to apply the glue of love in your relationship by being the first one to make amends. Your hurt ego may feel bruised, but you are the adult/parent, the responsible one who shepherds your adolescent’s development. Come aboard the forgiveness train to teach your daughter steps toward taking responsibility for favorable or unwarranted actions.

You are a VIP passenger in your teen’s roller-coaster car.  Together, you will experience those bumps ups and down, but don’t regress along with your teen; you will find your way from competition and contradiction to cooperation.

The next developmental stage – young adulthood – brings on higher education and professional goals, finding a partner and creating a family. The young adult stage will bring back more interdependent times which will compensate for your patient steadfastness during the storms of adolescence.

Your daughter will certainly value your ‘good enough’ mom’s anchoring when the times were rough. The good times will feel sweeter when you do the work with your adolescent daughter. I promise.

Author Judith Bin-Nun, Ph.D. MA, LMFT, LPCC, Child Development Specialist, Educator, Artist. Ph.D Clinical Child Psychology, LMFT, LPCC, MA Jewish Education, MA Psychology, MA Marriage, Family and Child Counseling.

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