The picture that comes to mind as I think of mothers and daughters is a tall woman, mid 30's, looking down on her little 3 year old daughter who is looking up with big eyes at her idol — her role model. Innocence is so obvious in this picture. The future is unknown. Only the present adoration of her mommy, the woman she looks to for her everything, is her entire world.
As the 3 year old grows up, her mommy image changes. The messages given to many daughters has and can be "wear your best underwear at all times in case you get into an accident and have to go the hospital", "all men are out for one thing", "don't trust strangers", and on and on — you can fill in the blanks.
The message usually changes as the age of the daughter changes. In childhood the message of safety, trust, bonding, autonomy and self-esteem needs to be communicated and taught. But what happens many times is a message of fear, enmeshment, dependency and worthlessness is modeled and confusion sets in with the child.
In adolescence, the sexual issues, peer relationships and experimentation with life are very important areas to explore. If mothers are unclear on these issues themselves then they can again distort healthiness and teach unhealthiness, that is: fear of relationships; sex and affection are dirty or bad; and never try anything that is risky. The daughter is set up for unhealthiness and despair in her life. I work with so many women and young girls who have a distorted perception of themselves and life; they are struggling so hard to figure out what is healthy for them.
Healthiness with relationships is not just limited to mothers and daughters. Here are some simple points to remember:
- Give affection fully and allow yourself to accept affection freely.
- Listen to your daughter — she has words of wisdom to share with you about herself.
- Share your feelings in a healthy and safe way and allow feelings to be shared with you.
- Put yourself in her shoes at whatever age she is. Don't ask her to walk in yours.
- Encourage her to talk about her fears and confusion but don't pressure her to "tell all" because of your fear and confusion.
- Tell her she is special and you love her.
- Allow her to grow up into her own unique self with your guidance.
- Apologize for the past or present.
Mothers and daughters can share a great relationship with each other. They can also have terrible relationships. You have a choice as to what you want to have. We all need food, clothing, shelter and love. Nurturing is a part of love. As you nurture your daughter, you nurture you. You can let go of some of the distorted messages that you were given and learn new, healthy ones.
You have a choice… Exercise your rights.