Remember when you held your newborn's precious hand and then years later again held her little hand when you crossed the playground when she was three? Her hand melted into yours each time and it felt almost like you were one even for an instant. But developmental leaps have taken place and in your quiet moments you wonder, "Where has that little girl gone?"
Do you still see signs of her younger self underneath the eye shadow she forgot to take off before she got home from school? Does she ever let you take her hand when you watch TV together -- just for a second? Oh, to have that kind of closeness again.
But realistically, she wants to be separate from her mother physically and emotionally most of the time. She's a teenager who wants her own identity. Some girls do share a lot of what's happening to them with their mothers -- or so it seems. But there is plenty you just can't know about.
So how do you focus your motherhood to maintain a solid relationship with your growing teenage daughter?
Here are a few guidelines:
1. You are still the most important woman in her life.
You may not be with her all that much in reality, but you are definitely in her mind. Don't forget that. You've been the chief female role model all these years and she compares other women to you. She compares herself to you. She may struggle to be different from you right now because she's trying to find her own sense of self but you are not forgotten even if you are ignored.
2. Be respectful of your daughter.
The way you treat your teenage daughter even when you disagree with her choices affects how she thinks of herself. Try not to be judgmental or yell at her. Find ways to give your opinions if you must without being critical of her ideas as well.
Discuss alternatives like you would with a colleague. Don't be dogmatic. Speak as politely to her as you would to an acquaintance.
If you respect her, she respects herself. Your tone of voice and facial expressions as you pass each other by can mean everything to her self-image. When you smile at her, she smiles to herself. If she thinks you think well of her, she thinks well of herself.
Say please and thank you even if she doesn't say it to you. Be appreciative of what she does whenever you can. Then she'll appreciate herself. And you may start to hear some appreciation in return.
3. Keep up conversation.
Find ways to just hang out without an agenda. Drive her to school, just to spend time with her and talk about anything that comes to your minds. Take her out to lunch or spend time shopping if she'll go with you, just to be in each others presence. Enjoy her choices of food and clothes, even if they're not your ideal preferences.
Be curious about what's on her mind without judgment. If she wants advice, offer it with a question: "What would you think about... ?" "How would you feel if you decided to... ?" This gives her room to explore and consider your ideas and maybe make them her own.
4. Listen attentively.
When she seeks your attention, give it without reservation. Listen to her without interruption. Don't be thinking about what you want to say next, instead totally hear her out. Let her finish her sentences before you reply. Comment on what she's said, so she knows you really listened, before you add your own ideas.
Make your replies open-ended to encourage her to think more about what she's saying. "Do you have any more ideas about that?" "What other alternatives do you have?" This way you encourage critical thinking.
5. If you are worried about her choices, have an exploratory discussion.
All her choices won't be good ones. But if you come on like a bull in a china shop, she'll only feel criticized and find it hard to hear you out. If you express concern and your genuine feelings, she's less likely to push-back because she knows you care. When your inquiries come out of honesty, she feels that and even if she doesn't thank you, she's thinking about what you said long after your collaborative discussion.
6. Tell her you love her.
Even when you find yourself arguing, at a quiet moment hours after the argument, stop by her room and tell her you love her. No discussion about whatever happened that was disagreeable, just love. If you can, touch her hand for an instant.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, to be released Oct. 13, 2015. It's on sale right now to pre-order on Amazon at a discount. Follow Laurie on twitter @lauriehollmanph.