Three Ways To Cultivate Closeness With Your Teen Daughter
Aug 20, 2018 | By: Jennifer Lebo
As I sit here in the quiet of my office, upstairs in our home, I can hear it.
The quiet bustling of a few new girls as they move into the dorm. Tomorrow is the first day of classes here at our school, and tonight our dorm will be filled with 18 beautiful faces, some new to the dorm, some new to the school, some veterans of both. Either way, a new group, and some new faces, make me a little nervous. I have high hopes for this year, goals for each and every one of them, and for us as a collective group. I want to create a safe haven for them, a fun dorm, a space where we skip drama for trust, where every girl comes to understand that I care about her, and where we bond as a boarding school dorm family.
The boarding school dynamic is a unique one, and I know I live a quirky life where over a dozen girls enter my care and my world every August. But as I prepare to head out on the journey with these girls, I am reminded of the journey I’m already on with my own daughter.
Each August is a wonderful reminder for me of the hopes and plans that I have for my own girl, for our relationship as mother and daughter. On the surface, this journey might seem simple. I’ve known this girl her whole life. We’ve been doing this mom/girl thing for almost 13 years now.
But that’s just it. She’s about to turn 13. The rules are changing. The dynamic is changing. Our dance is shifting a bit. And so I get nervous when it comes to her, too. I want to create a safe space for her, in our own home. I want her to know that she can trust me with the big stuff, as that’s what the teen years often bring. I want us to bond, to connect, to stay close and to grow closer, despite the struggles that are surely coming our way.
I want to cultivate a closeness with her.
So what does that even mean? Cultivating closeness? I purposely choose the word “cultivating” here because of its definition. It means “to prepare or work on”, or “to promote or improve the work of something by labor or attention”. When we think of the word cultivate, we think of tilling our gardens, or raising crops, or growing something that nourishes us.
So isn’t that the perfect word for this mother/daughter relationship? We should be working purposefully on this relationship, putting time and effort into growing it, focusing our attention and labor on it, in order for it to grow and nourish both our daughters and us.
But how? What can we moms do to cultivate this relationship, to foster a closeness with our daughters? Consider these few tips.
1. BE PRESENT
Just like a farmer must show up everyday to grow crops, so must a mother. So often as moms, we want to jump right into things, to force the conversation, the connection, the closeness. But many of us know (having learned the hard way), that this simply does not work.
We have to show up. Day after day. Literally. We have to be present. In the kitchen, when she returns home from school. In the family room when she’s watching her favorite show. At the breakfast table before she heads off for the day. We have to simply be there.
This does not mean we have to talk. I’m serious! No conversation is necessary. Sometimes, all we need is to just be there. Just be present. Make her a quick snack after school, or grab her something to drink. Just be there.
It might not happen at first, but your presence there might eventually offer her the opportunity to initiate conversation. Before you both know it, she’s sharing her day with you, opening up to you about her world. And all you had to do was be present.
Now this is not always possible for us. Some of us work outside the home and are not there after school. Some of us have other kids who barge in and need us, or have us running them all over town. No worries. There are other times when you can connect. Before bed, before school, on the weekends. There are times. You have to find them, and you have to prioritize those times. Commit to being present. Be intentional about this. (Don’t know what it means to be intentional? Check out my last blog post about itHERE).
2. BECOME A STUDENT
Cultivating closeness with your daughter starts with you, and it starts with you learning more about who she is. Become a student of your daughter. Find out what excites her, or scares her, what makes her feel confident or insecure. Find out who her friends are, or who she struggles with at school. Is she interested in certain activities? Does she struggle in a specific class? What makes her laugh? Who is she crushing on?
These things take time, and I’m not suggesting you learn them all by giving her the third degree or by stalking her. This goes back to our first tip, simply being present. The more present we can be with our daughters, the more they’ll offer to us, or the more we’ll learn simply by being around her. So no stalking, and no smothering. Just pay attention.
I actually dive deeper into this idea of becoming a student of your daughter in my new course, CULTIVATING CLOSENESS, which comes out this week. To go deeper into this topic and others, learn more about the course HERE.
3. BE PATIENT
We are in it for the long haul, so don’t expect this to all work out overnight. Like the girls in my dorm, I’ve got to take the time to slowly get to know them, to build trust with them, both as the truster and the trustee. They need to trust me too! And so do our daughters, so take your time with this. We’ve got 7 years of teenhood and hopefully a lifetime together after that, so let’s pace ourselves.
Remember that with all long journeys come a few hurdles. We all know those are coming with our daughters. After all, we are imperfect mother and imperfect daughter, living in the same house, learning new layers to this relationships together. If that’s not the recipe for conflict, struggle, and frustration, then I don’t know what is!
But it’s also the opportunity for patience and grace. And not just for them, but for us, too. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself some grace. Remember, we are cultivating a precious garden here, one that will nourish our daughters and us for a lifetime. We do not get there overnight.
4. STRETCH YOURSELF
I’ve got a bonus tip for you today, which is to keep stretching yourself. Read books on how to walk the teen daughter road. (I have a list of great books for moms that you can grab RIGHT HERE.) Talk to other moms about their journey, and learn new ideas about raising daughters. (We’ve got a great community of moms over on FB, which you can join RIGHT HERE.) Or you can challenge yourself in new ways, like the 5-Day challenge I'm starting with my tribe on being more intentional. You can still join us, but only today! The challenge is starting today!
Another way to stretch yourself is to learn more, through an online course designed specifically for the journey of a mom and her teen daughter.
CULTIVATING CLOSENESS is just that course. I created it just for moms like you, which means it’s not time consuming but it’s powerful, and it speaks specifically to the teen daughter journey. The course is opening for registration for the first time THIS WEEK and we will begin the course together on Monday, Sept. 3.
You can grab all the details, from special prices, to bonuses, and more, RIGHT HERE. But don’t wait. The course registration will only be open for one week, and I’m only accepting a limited number.
I’d love to have you take this course with us. Whether you’ve got one tween daughter, a pair of teens, or a whole dorm of them like I do, this course was made for us.
Until then, remember to be present, be a student, and be patient. We’ve got this!