Your Changing Relationship
It may seem to change in an afternoon, or it may shift slowly over time. But your relationship with your daughter will most likely shift in these challenging years. Knowing how to shift with it and keep it on track as a loving one is one of your most important roles as a mother.
“I Love You!”
For years now, she's been willing to kiss you goodbye in front of anyone, yell “I love you!” at any time, and might even suddenly hug you for no reason right smack in the middle of the grocery store/soccer dome/street. Now, she moves away from you to avoid a kiss goodbye when you drop her off somewhere, and turns beet red when you say those now-dreaded three words: I love you.
So, you wonder, when and why did she stop loving you? She hasn't. Not even in the least. In fact, these are the years she loves you and needs you most, even though ironically, she seldom (if ever) shows it.
As much as you'd like her to still show the world she adores you, it is most natural for a girl to grow to not display these things for everyone all the time. It is important, though, for you to find a way to express your love, and for her to express hers, comfortably. It's easy to slide into assuming someone does not care about you if they never hear it from you. And if you just let it go, years from now, your daughter could say, “You never told me you loved me.”
When you first notice your daughter not wanting any public displays of affection or “PDAs” with you, devise a secret “I love you signal.” A discreet double squeeze of the palm is enough, so long as you two know the meaning.
Finding a way to keep that part of your evolving relationship alive that she is comfortable with will remind her you do always love her. (And for you hearing or feeling her love at times other than when a cash register and your credit card are involved). If you can find an easy and agreeable solution, this is one place where, while your relationship shifts, it does not have to truly change.
It is important, too, for you to continue finding ways to express love to your child because you are her role model. You want her to grow into an adult who feels free expressing her opinions and showing the world her love. If you freeze up now because she does, she'll model that behavior. If you adapt and find new ways, she'll model that instead.
No, it's not normal for you to run after the high school bus blowing kisses or to give her a giant hug goodbye when you drop her off at the football game, but it is normal to give her a kiss goodnight, every night, at home. Don't shy away from the simple, private acts of love just because she wants to. In the end, she'll be glad you did not.
This is one time when texting can be good. Kids might not want to say “I love you,” but they are more than happy to text ILU (text slang for I love you) just about any time.
“I Hate You!”
As sure as the sun is going to shine, your teen daughter is going to tell you she hates you. Be ready for it. How is a parent to react? While you cannot ignore it, neither can you allow it to almost end the world.
Hate is a strong word and one that you've most likely raised your child to clearly understand the implication of yet, somewhere around 12 or 13 years old, there it comes: hurling past her lips and right at your face. It's shocking and it's hurtful, but that's your child's goal. Of course she does not hate you, but she's confused or upset and you, good parent, are her “safe spot,” a place where she can let out as much angst as she wants and never, ever be cast away.
So what's a sensitive parent to do? The first step is to defuse the situation. Yelling back is not a solution. Tell your child you want to be alone — or for her to be alone — until she can talk to you rationally. When she can (even if it's hours later), remind her of how harmful a word like “hate” is, and that you do not allow it to be used that way in your home. Then, expect her to do it again sometime. Because she will.
You may notice too that your daughter tries to choose one parent as the “hated” and one as the favorite. Do not allow this to happen, as it is manipulation it one of its clearest forms, and not a good practice for your daughter to have success in.
What if she really does hate me?
If the “hate” talk and feelings are more than just fleeting and from time to time, family counseling is in order. Anger — in any prolonged form — should always be addressed and adjusted.
And what about how you feel? With your daughter not wanting to hug you, being willing to say she hates you, and avoiding you in many cases, moms can begin to feel their own feelings of abandonment at most and under-appreciation at least. The key here is to remember that many, if not most, girls go through this. You probably did at one point in your life with your own mother, and it will pass.
So long as you stay strong as a parent, stick to what she needs and love her all the while, things will shift to a new level of love. It just takes time. In the end, the coolest thing a mom can do is work hard to help her adolescent girl navigate her way through these choppy years and come out a whole, happy, well-adjusted adult.