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From the time I turned 14 years old to the year I started college, I had about zero chummy conversations with my mom. Yet, she couldn’t have been a more caring parent—and now, we’re closer than ever. What happened during those years and why did it feel like the dark ages?
“Mothers and daughters tend to see one another as an extension of themselves,” explains Cheryl Somers, a therapist who specializes teen counseling. “When a mother looks at her daughter, she sees all of the beauty, but also all of the flaws that she sees in herself,” says Somers. “On the daughter’s part, she looks at her mom and sees qualities she admires and wants to emulate and others that she is determined to never embrace.”
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In other words, tension between teenage daughters and their mothers is complicated—and common. That’s precisely why Somers is offering a communication workshop for mothers and their teenage daughters (ages 12 to 17) this fall. The three-hour session, to be held on Saturday, October 18, will help moms and daughters understand one another and develop communication strategies that can strengthen their relationships.
“The workshop gives mothers and daughters a safe space to talk openly, enjoy each other’s company, and share things in a way that might not happen in their everyday lives,” says Somers, a counselor at Prairie Creek Middle School who also maintains a private family therapy practice.
My teen-aged self might’ve scoffed at the idea of an hours-long heart-to-heart with mom. But I also suspect I would’ve benefitted from the communication exercises Somers plans for participants, which include:
- What do you think she was like?/What do you think she will be like? This activity allows daughters to explore what their mother was like as a teenager, while the mother imagines what kind of adult her daughter will be. It’s an opportunity to see one another through new eyes.
- Drawing the line: Sometimes parents get bogged down in so many rules that kids feel smothered (and kids get caught up in wanting everything to go their way at all times). During this exercise, moms identify their top three, non-negotiable expectations for their daughters. Meanwhile, daughters identify the top three freedoms and privileges that are most important to them. The pair then works together to create an approach that meets both their needs.
- Reconnect: Moms and daughters create a plan for spending time together. They establish rules (for example, no talking about grades) and propose ideas for having some fun together.
“When girls are little, it’s so easy to have fun with them by playing, baking, biking, or watching movies,” says Somers. As kids get older, they might seem less interested in time with mom. “My 20 years’ experience with teenage girls tells me this is not at all true,” says Somers. “Parents and teens just need to learn new ways to spend time together.”
At just three years old, my daughter Simone is thrilled every time I propose to play a board game or ride bikes. But I know the day will come when we’ll struggle to find the chummy connections that come so easily to us now. I hope that down the road, we’ll find this kind of workshop to help keep us close through her turbulent teenage years.
To learn more about the October 18 session, call 303-947-3093 or visit cherylsomerscounseling.com/events.