Do I Have to be Available to My Daughter Every Minute? Ten Strategies to Nurturing Her Independence
Yesterday my daughter Julie’s parked car was rear ended by another car and she called me before she called the police. I could understand her call if she was hurt and frightened, but this was just one of those aggravating, pain in the neck situations. I really wish she had told me about it after it was done and dealt with. I feel like her personal 911. What’s going on?
We raised our daughters to feel entitled, and when they can’t or don’t want to do something, we jump into action and fix it. For example, one mother told us of a recent experience with her adult daughter. “In a snow storm my daughter did not even have a shovel in her apartment to dig out her car because consciously or unconsciously she expected that my husband and I would move mountains to shovel out her car to rescue her.”
Our daughters often don’t know that they are in peril because we save them before they feel danger. They don’t set themselves up with provisions to be self-sufficient. Many may not know how to take care of basic needs because we have created such a finely woven safety net. Our hyper vigilance makes it harder for our kids to walk away from us.
The concept of family has changed. We raised our daughters to believe that families are democratic. The truth is that today more families are less hierarchal. We encouraged our daughters to have a voice, and as adults they use their voices to summon our assistance. This change may create some role confusion for adult daughters. It also presents new opportunities for closeness, which we may not have had with our own mothers.
It isn’t that our parents weren’t interested or loved us any less; it’s that they were satisfied to hear about our lives, whereas we want to experience things with our daughters firsthand. We fight to stay in the game. Our daughters may expect more from us because we are the first generation that focused on our children’s happiness to the extent that we were involved in the nuances of their lives. We were devoted to making our daughters’ lives less difficult, if not easy, believing this “helicopter” caretaking would create happiness.
1. Communicate your confidence in her ability to be an independent self-sufficient woman.
2. Develop respectful interdependence to support more collaboration and less hierarchy, which will enable your daughter to chart her own course.
3. Be an active listener and give advice only when asked.
4. Empower your daughter to take care of herself by resisting the urge to fix everything.
5. Encourage a sense of well being by telling your daughter that you respect and admire her for how she handles herself and the decisions she makes. Of course, this praise must be genuine.
6. Provide support, which is different from enabling behavior (continued dependence).
7. Encourage her to learn to live with the consequences of her decisions.
8. Refrain from saying, “I told you so,” when a decision she makes disappoints her.
9. Be open to the choices your adult daughter makes, even when those choices may not be the ones you would make.
10. Believe that your adult daughter is okay and can stand on her own, and let her know that.
Linda Perlman Gordon, MSW, and Susan Morris Shaffer, MA, are the authors of Too Close for Comfort? Questioning the Intimacy of Today’s New Mother-Daughter Relationship, now available in paperback from Berkley Books in bookstores and online. They are available to speak to parents, educators, and mental health professionals. To get more information and proven strategies for staying connected with your children visit www.parentingroadmaps.com.