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For many of us, Mother’s Day is a time to feel grateful and blessed and to cherish, love, and respect our relationship with our mother. For others it is a time of sadness to grieve for a mom who is no longer here. And for others it is a time of regret for a relationship that never was.
If your relationship with your mom isn’t the best, though, it’s never too late to forge a new relationship or improve the one that you have.
(This article is written from the perspective that your relationship with your mother isn’t irreconcilable and that she is not a person with whom you have strong reasons for no longer speaking – i.e. emotional or physical abuse, substance issues, etc.).
Transitioning from that tumultuous adolescent relationship with mom
As an adolescent:
- Did you fight your mother?
- Did you rebel against everything your mother tried to instill in you?
- Did you think that she was a royal pain in the neck and so uncool?
- Did you believe that your mother’s only purpose in life was to make you feel miserable?
- Did you feel that she didn’t know what she was talking about?
How do we transition from what was once an oppositional relationship in our adolescence to an adult mother / daughter relationship?
How do we move from thinking of mom as someone who doesn’t know anything to realizing that mom has a lot of life experience and wisdom to share with us?
Even if your adolescent relationship wasn’t that tumultuous or contentious, there still may be major shifts as you move into adulthood. For example:
- Mom might have to let go of her protective instincts, realizing that her baby girl is now a woman.
- For daughters, we have to realize that while mom has probably made some mistakes of her own, she can still be a helpful source of advice and love in our adult lives.
Transitioning into these new roles may be a slow yet natural progression that occurs over time, but for others it can be work on both parts to shift this.
One of the most important parts of any relationship is knowing where the boundaries are.
You may have a great relationship with your mom, even a friendship, but it’s important for you both to still have some boundaries. For instance:
- It may not be appropriate for a mother to talk about her relationship with her husband (i.e. Dad).
- Even if you and your mother now share many stories, the intimate details of your own love life may be out of bounds.
Boundaries, too, are not just about what’s appropriate, but also about sensitive issues:
- Many mothers and daughters are very sensitive to each other’s weight and eating habits, and it may be good to let your mom know that you appreciate her input, but you’re able to make your own decisions about what and how you eat.
- This goes for any areas that you’re not comfortable discussing.
Of course, many of these boundaries will develop naturally and organically, without much thought, however some areas of your relationship may need more deliberate care and nurturing. As in any good relationship, it’s always nice to allow space and time to truly listen to your mother, asking her about:
- Her own interests.
- What she’s doing now.
- How she spends her time.
- What she wants to do with her life.
- Etc. ...
... may be very revealing and may also open the door to allow for more in her life.
Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D, psychologist, author, and mom / daughter relationship expert.
Reflect back what the other person is saying, instead of assuming you already know.
You may start to discover through this listening that your mom isn’t just a mom.
- One of the biggest parts of nurturing an adult relationship is realizing that your mom has dreams and needs of her own, separate and individual from the family.
- She may not be fully expressing these, or may have just started to, however anything you can do as her daughter to allow her to awaken old dreams and hobbies is beneficial.
- Perhaps even consider taking a class or a trip together?
Rewriting the old story:
Another area of work for most of us is in letting go of our old stories around what our parents did and didn’t do for us:
- Are there things in your life that you blame mom for?
- Are there things that you wish she’d done, or ways that you’d wished she’d acted?
- We might have written a story in our heads in which our moms were more loving, more considerate, more available, etc.
But the truth of it is, that past can no longer be rewritten, and we have to work through and let go of any blame that we’ve given to mom (or dad) for our lives. If we don’t work through these, then we stay stuck in this pattern and it doesn’t serve us.
Accept mom’s love the way that it’s given:
We may also wish that our moms were able to show their love in a very specific way – a way that we find beneficial.
However, not everyone is able to express their love in the same way, so it would be important to begin to accept the love in the way that they are able to give it:
- For some moms, this means helping out (bringing meals, cleaning your house, doing your laundry).
- For others, this is in words or expressions, and ...
- For others still, it is via hugs and nurturing touch.
However mom can show her love, though, we can take it in and appreciate it.
If you’re struggling with your relationship with your mother or around releasing your own past stories, it may be helpful to speak with a licensed psychotherapist.
On Long Island, Nassau Guidance & Counseling has been providing daughters (and mothers) with the tools to nurture healthy relationships of all kinds, as well as to work through the emotional issues of childhood.
Our expert therapists provide a welcoming space to allow you to move past old wounds and rediscover more vibrant relationships with mom, and with everyone else in your life, too!