When a daughter hits puberty, her relationship with her mom is almost guaranteed to deteriorate. This strained relationship is actually a good sign of normal development, even if it might be occasionally painful for parents. But the good news is that dads are in a unique position to ease tensions between mom and daughter, says Dr. Dana Dorfman, a therapist to families and teens for 30 years.
“From an emotional standpoint, there are two primary tasks that adolescents are trying to achieve: emotional separation from their parents, and developing their own identity,”says Dr. Dana Dorfman, a therapist to families and teens for 30 years. “Because of the gender similarity, girls identify with their mothers for the most part. So, oftentimes, the intensity with which they try to extricate themselves is directed towards their mother more specifically.”
So what can dad do to help the conflict? Well, for one, fathers can remind mothers that at least a part of the reason that their daughter is lashing out is because she feels safe at home. “A lot of times, a parent, especially a mother, is the safest receptacle for those feelings,” says Dorfman.
How To Help Your Teenage Daughter Get Along With Mom
- Remember that this is a totally normal part of teenage development, even if it is totally awful, and that because of gender similarity, your daughter will actually lash out at mom more.
- Remember that daughters lash out because they feel safest with their moms and at home. Remind mom of that.
- When a teenage daughter is acting out, mom and dad should not bite the bait. Stay calm. If either parent does react and argue back, they should apologize to their daughter.
- After the dust has settled on a blow-out, talk to your daughter about her feelings. Don’t take her side, but do be empathetic. Being a teenager is hard.
- Even though you should stay calm in fights and arguments, you should have hard lines on what they will and won’t tolerate. Being a calm parent does not mean that you should have to tolerate disrespect.
- Being a mom to a teenage girl is hard. Do all you can to make sure that mom is taking care of herself by taking her out on dates, getting her out with friends, making sure she has time to exercise, and spend time not being worried about being a mom.
And what’s more, a dad can help by offering measured reactions to a teen girl’s emotional outbursts. This models great behavior for all involved, but especially for moms who should never rise to meet a teen daughters emotion.
“Mom and dad should not bite the bait,” says Dorfman. “All of this is much easier said than done, but it’s not a parent’s job to absorb their kids feelings for them.” If a teen daughter is acting out, being rude or mean, parents need to stay as calm as possible. But if a fight breaks out apologies are in order from all sides.
“That shows teenagers that parents reflect on their behavior as well,” says Dorfman.
She notes that dads should also know that intervening during a fight might not work out the way they want to. In fact, the best time to talk to both daughter and mom about whatever is troubling them is after the dust has settled and everyone has had a chance to sit down and think. That’s when dad can be both supportive to his daughter and his wife. But it requires finesses. There’s no good in completely siding with the daughter, because it could undermine mom’s authority. But generally, teen girls just want to feel heard, and dads can be that person for their daughter.
“If a daughter is complaining to their father about their mom, what dad can say is: ‘It’s hard to be a teenager. I know it’s frustrating for you to be told what to do’ Dad is not agreeing or disagreeing with her — he’s simply reflecting back what her frustration is, and that can be very helpful and validating,” says Dorfman.
Likewise, fathers should talk to mom after fights or arguments, away from their daughter. Validating a partner and backing them up will help them feel like she’s not fighting the teen-daughter battle alone. Being a supportive husband, and presenting a united front, is deeply important. It’s also important that parents have hard boundaries on what they will allow their daughter to say to them. Just because a teen girl is going through extreme developmental changes doesn’t mean parents should become pushovers.
“It’s helpful for parents not to take it personally. This is part of their kid’s process,” says Dorfman, “That doesn’t mean that they should just roll over, absorb, or accept disrespect. A mom and father should know what the limits are. They should reinforce them, so that expectations are clear.” says Dorfman. This shows kids that parents respect themselves and they won’t endure disrespect or abuse. Kids need to see that.