Mandy was at the end of her rope with her mom when she called me for coaching. Every conversation ended with frustration. Why couldn’t the two of them get along better? Why did her mom constantly criticize her and tell her what to do? But Mandy’s biggest concern was how could she handle her mom in a way that preserved the relationship without always giving in and getting mad?
Coaching focuses on helping the adult daughter develop a better sense of herself, become more empathetic, listen better, consider her mother’s worth as a person, and be concrete in communicating rather than talking about feelings or vague issues. Coaching helps to widen the lens of who your mother is or was. Coaching can also help adult daughters develop realistic expectations for their mothers.
These tips will help improve communication and healthy interaction. Once you have a good grasp regarding changes that need to be made, try a nonthreatening issue first. If you can stand your ground without getting angry or defensive, you are ready to try a higher conflict issue.
1) When you have a disagreement, don’t try to get others on your team. Resolving issues has nothing to do with who agrees with you. You decide how you feel without outside validation. Find your voice and use it.
2) Make a change. If you need to make changes in your relationship, do it, not because your mom tells you (she could be right!) or because someone else thinks you should or is pressuring you to change, but because your change will change the relationship in a positive way. Sometimes we create problems and need to examine our own behavior. It’s easier to blame mom.
3) Don’t underestimate your mother’s reaction when you try to make a change. She may object to changes in the relationship. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong to pursue them. It just means that change may create temporary tension with a pull to go back to the old ways. Stay firm in your decision to react differently and the patterns between the two of you will change. We sometimes stay stuck in old unhealthy patterns because they are familiar. Breaking out of our old ways often creates tension.
4) Keep your visits with mom limited and focused if you feel the relationship is problematic. This helps you hold onto your sense of self. If you struggle with falling back into old unhealthy patterns, prepare ahead of time ways you can stay on message. For example, if your mom is alcoholic and begins to drink when you visit, tell her you will leave if she drinks. You prefer to have a sober visit. Then have a plan to leave and a place to go. Anticipate the usual problems and determine ahead of time how you will respond differently.
5) Write out your thoughts in a letter or rehearse a conversation using an empty chair so that you can put your thoughts together. Practice new ways to respond. Role-playing helps. It will help you anticipate how to respond to difficult topics and issues.
And remember, the mother-daughter bond is a powerful one worth putting effort in to making it the best you can. Don’t give up just because there is tension and problems. Keep working through the issues until you feel you can be with mom and not feel a need to constantly get her approval or validation.
For more specific and practical help, order my book, I LOVE MY MOTHER BUT…