Is it inevitable that as a girl grows into her preteen and teen years, she and her mom spar and grow apart? Absolutely not, say psychotherapists SuEllen Hamkins and Renée Schultz, coauthors of an inspiring how-to guide, The Mother-Daughter Project: How Mothers and Daughters Can Band Together, Beat the Odds, and Thrive Through Adolescence (Hudson Street Press, 2007). A mom-daughter group can help keep the bond strong even through difficult times. But here’s the twist: Creating moms-only space is vital to serving girls best. Daughters recently spoke with Hamkins, mom of two daughters, 18 and 13, and Schultz, mom of an 18-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son, from their Massachusetts homes.
Supporting Mom’s needs
Ten years ago, watching our carefree seven-year-old daughters riding their bikes through the neighborhood, ponytails flying in the wind, it frightened us to consider that there might come a time when these vibrant and affectionate young girls would want nothing to do with us.
We began talking and asking ourselves questions: How can mothers help their girls make it through adolescence strong, confident, and whole? Is there any way mothers and daughters can sustain their positive and loving relationships beyond childhood? How can mothers find the support they need to do the tough work of mothering, especially when the girls are teens?
Starting with monthly mothers-only discussions, we explored our own experiences of adolescence and our relationships with our mothers, and then we brainstormed ways to stay close to our daughters as we nurtured them through the teen years.
Later, we invited our daughters to join us, creating an ongoing mother-daughter group that alternated regularly with the mothers-only meetings. We developed playful but powerfully effective activities that fortified our girls’ self-esteem as we explored key issues together, such as body image, drugs, sexuality, and violence against women. In our monthly mother-daughter get-togethers, we divided time between addressing age-appropriate topics like learning to be media savvy or stay safe on public transportation with purely enjoyable activities like kayaking and mother-daughter movie nights.
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