Dr. Christiane Northrup: What does it take to make the crucial mom-daughter connection better, particularly during the challenges of a girl’s tween and teen years?Begin by assuming that these years can be about bonding, not battles, advises Dr. Christiane Northrup, a mom of two twenty-something daughters and author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Personal and Emotional Health (Bantam Books, 2005). Northrup, an obstetrician/gynecologist who also wrote the well-loved books Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, outlines some basics for honest, respectful, and loving relationships. The result, she says, is improved physical and emotional health for both your daughter and you.
Painful change is OK
It’s so frustrating to hear people speak with such dread about a girl’s puberty years, because I’ve talked to many mothers who’ve had very positive experiences. It’s often true that what you expect, you’re going to get. When you believe that your wonderful daughter is going to turn into a shrew and there’s nothing you can do about it, you hold one of the most disempowering beliefs a parent can have. And that belief can affect your girl adversely.
Your daughter is going through some important physical and emotional changes, usually beginning by age nine. Her hormones are changing rapidly, and the frontal lobe circuitry in her brain is rewiring. She will be forming belief systems that may be different from yours, and that’s normal. But that doesn’t mean that the soul qualities or essence of your child are changing in any way. This is a time when more than ever, you need to see your daughter as being in one womb preparing to birth herself into another womb, and so she will go through labor pains.
I believe one of biggest problems mothers get into—and I was just as vulnerable as any mother—is that we want so much to be liked by our daughter and to be the “cool mom.” A part of me wanted to do whatever it took to not have those eyes rolled at me. Looking back, it amazes me how vulnerable we are to what our daughters think of us. We need to really own that: how much you want this kid who used to want to be with you more than anyone else to still want to be with you. We don’t want that to ever end.
I think that if we name our losses consciously as parents and as mothers, it’s just easier to go through the process. You are losing that little girl whose biggest joy was maybe her shell collection and she wasn’t that interested in boys at all. The key is to keep nurturing the thread of who she really is in life by encouraging activities that keep her strength, perseverance, and self-esteem. At the same time, we need to understand that she’ll also be going through some challenging changes during the middle-school years.