Advice Column, Tween & Teen

Communicating with Teenagers: Sharing Life Experiences and ‘Mum Wisdom’ with Your Daughter

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Ensuring that the lines of communication between you and your daughter are always open is one of the best ways to stay connected. Find out how sharing life experiences – with empathy and understanding – can be an important part of strengthening this relationship. It will also assist your daughter on her journey towards self-discovery and help improve her self-esteem.

When it comes to growing up, the speed of change has never been faster than it is today and sometimes it can seem that there is a world of difference between your teenage experiences and the life of your teenage daughter.

Just because you might be from the pre-digital age, however, doesn’t mean that there is a big difference between your life experiences. It’s the way that situations and discoveries make girls feel about themselves, how it affects their self-confidence, rather than specific details, that’s important. Often it’s the emotional upheavals of adolescence that are similar between mothers and daughters. The understanding that you have of your daughter’s experience is in effect ‘mum wisdom’.

Sharing these common emotions and how you coped with them at your daughter’s age is a great way to help her build her own self-image and self-esteem as she gets older. It can be the foundation of a great line of communication between you and your daughter.

Listening First, Solutions Second

The key to effective communication is listening to any worries and difficulties that your daughter may be having and not leaping to judgments or immediately dispensing advice.

Dove Self-Esteem Project Advisory Board member, Dr Christina Berton, urges any mum to “remember how different situations made you feel, and give plenty of space for listening. You want to stay connected, so you need to allow her to share her emotions with you, not feel that you are going to judge her as soon as she opens her mouth.”

In order to show empathy you need to put yourself in her shoes and imagine how she is feeling. By doing this you will be creating a stronger bond between the two of you and make communicating in the future a lot easier because there is a mutual understanding of how the other feels (or has felt).

Focus on your daughter when you’re sharing life experiences. Some mothers want to show that they understand what their daughters are going through by sharing some of their own life experiences.

Dr Phillippa Diedrichs, research psychologist and body image expert, suggests that mums should open up about their own lives, but keep the overall focus of their conversation on their daughter’s teenage experiences, as this is likely to be most helpful.

“To feel supported, your daughter needs to see that you are really listening to what she is saying and that you are really there for her,” she says. “Sharing a related story from your own experience of growing up can be helpful if the intention is to show your daughter that you’ve had similar feelings in the past.”

Your Teenage Experiences Won’t Be Exactly The Same.

“It’s important that mothers don’t expropriate their daughters’ experiences as it’s unlikely they have had exactly the same ones as their daughter,” Dr Terri Apter says. “You shouldn’t say you know exactly what it’s like – teenage girls want to feel unique. Also, for the mother, whatever happened was a long time ago; for the daughter, it’s raw, and it hurts.”

What if she’s telling you something that is beyond what you have experienced? Dr Diedrichs points out that it’s important to engage using empathy. “The most important thing is to show that you’re listening to her and you are there for her to tell you whatever she needs to share,” she says.

It’s important that your daughter knows that you’re not only interested in hearing about her own experiences and how these make her feel but, most importantly, that she can always rely on you to be there to work through anything.

What Next: Action Steps to Help When Communicating with Your Daughter

  • One way to encourage your daughter to feel that she can talk to you is by bringing up subjects from the news that touch on what teenagers are interested in. Remember to ask what she thinks before you tell her your views.
  • If you are tempted to compare a particular experience of hers with one from your youth, ask her first if she would like to hear it.
  • It’s great to be there for your daughter but you still need to act like a parent, not a friend. That means you can be supportive and loving, but your responses should reflect that you are her role model.
  • It’s good to be familiar with social media but you don’t have to compete with her.

To read more articles like this visit the Dove Self Esteem website: http://selfesteem.dove.co.za/

 

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