What Your Daughter Isn’t Telling You
By Susie Shellenberger and Kathy Gowler, Crosswalk.com
"Why Won't She Talk to Me?"
Many moms feel as though their teen daughters are shutting them out, and they don't understand why. The little girl who used to tell her everything is now quiet and distant. The relationship that used to be close is now strained. What happened?
Sometimes it's just a normal stage teen girls go through—separating themselves from their mothers to find their own identities. That's completely normal. They want a measure of privacy and sometimes just need to sort things out for themselves.
Other times, though, the lines of communication have been broken and the teen daughter simply gives up and stops talking to her mom about personal things.
Some tension between a daughter and her mother as she transitions from girlhood to womanhood is inevitable. Hormones rage and emotions run high. What's the difference between normal mom-daughter relational stress and a complete breakdown in communication? What makes a teen girl suddenly stop talking to her mom?
We'll let some of them tell you....
- Okay, here's the deal: My mom and I never see eye-to-eye on anything. I'd love to talk with her about things—you know, questions I have, stuff I'm struggling with, relationships. I really want her to understand where I'm coming from. And I want to understand her point of view; I really do! I just long for a real mom-daughter relationship like some of my friends have. I can't imagine how cool it would be to feel close to my mom. Can you tell me how to get that?
- I'm the oldest in my family, and I'm twelve. My mom and I used to spend all kinds of time together—before my third sister was born. We read together, and we'd just sit on the couch and snuggle and talk. But we don't do that anymore. I felt so special when she spent alone time with me. Now I don't feel loved at all. I want us to get back to where we used to be. Is it possible?
- I wasn't going to tell my mom what was bothering me, because I knew how hurt she'd be. But she knew something was up. For an entire month, she kept putting pressure on me to open up with her. I admitted I was afraid she'd no longer love me when she found out what I'm dealing with. She laughed and said that wasn't possible. So I told her. I'm a lesbian and I have a girlfriend. Just as I thought, she started crying. Now I wish I'd never told her the truth. She's very distant with me. We used to be so tight. I miss the mom I used to have. I want our closeness back, but I don't know what to do.
- Ugh! I'm so angry at my mom and dad. They've planned out my entire life—even which college I'll attend. This is my life, and they're not even asking what I think!
- Whenever I start to open up with my mom, I get so nervous and chicken out. I've lied, and I want to come clean with her about it. I also need to tell her about my boyfriend. But we just can't communicate. How can I change things between us?
- I'm TIRED. I'm tired of my sister, my mom, and life in general. Sigh. Mom doesn't listen to me when I try to talk with her. I'll start, but she changes the subject to herself. Because of that, I've just stopped talking with her. Yeah, this is selfish, but I need my mom to listen to ME and hear MY problems!
- I love my boyfriend; I really do. And whenever my mom gets mad at me, she threatens to break us up. So that tells me I shouldn't talk with her. Why does she use him against me to get me to do what she wants? I feel manipulated. I also think I'm depressed. I'm borderline anorexic. I eat in front of my folks, but I never eat very much. They read my diary, so they found out I'm struggling with anorexia ... and again, they threatened to break up my boyfriend and me if I don't start eating more. I wish so badly I had someone to talk to! After my last fight with Mom, I started cutting myself. I feel so alone.
These precious girls have two things in common: they feel empty and lonely in their relationships with their moms, and they want better relationships but feel helpless and don't know how to fix it.
Lonely is a dangerous place for a teen girl to be, regardless of the reasons why.
If she feels she can't talk to her mom about what she's feeling without being laughed at or ignored, she'll find someone else to talk to—or more frightening, another way to deal with her pain.
For some it becomes an eating disorder—when the rest of her life seems out of her control, she controls the only thing she can: what she does or doesn't put into her body.
Others turn to Internet relationships and find strangers who show interest in them and don't judge them. There's always someone online available to listen, comfort, and make a lonely girl feel loved.
Too many lonely teen girls will give themselves to the first boy who looks their way, simply because they long to feel cared for and accepted.
We're not saying that every girl who gets involved in these kinds of behaviors does it because of her mom. There are many godly women who are heartbroken and pray daily for their daughters who may be involved in a harmful relationship or behavior; there can be a multitude of reasons for a young girl to make unhealthy choices.
Take note! If you're turning a deaf or critical ear when your daughter is trying to talk to you, she may easily feel rejected and look elsewhere for the comfort she's seeking. Teen girls are in an emotional, turbulent time of life. All too often it's easy for adults to simply shrug off what to a teen is a heartbreaking, life-or-death situation. They desperately need someone to listen to their sometimes not-so-obvious cries for attention.
- I love my mom to pieces, but it's really tough to talk about girl things with her. I've tried asking her advice about makeup and dating, but she just looks at me like it's not important. It hurts when she laughs at my questions. I'd give anything in the world to have someone in my life who could give me good advice and who would just love me in spite of the fact that I have so many questions.
- I'm the only girl in my family, and I'm also the oldest child. It seems my mom and I can't get along anymore. Somehow we always end up in a fight. I've tried to get advice from my dad, but he won't even listen to me. So I started writing notes to my mom. I've even apologized to her. But when I tell her I love her, she just says, "Yeah," and then walks away. I don't know what else to do!
What Kind of Mom Are You?
In the busyness of life, you may think you're in tune with your daughter, but are you really? It may surprise you to discover that from her perspective you don't have a clue about what's going on in her life.
How can you tell if you're doing a good enough job of being there for her? Start by asking yourself these questions:
When your daughter talks to you, do you really listen, or are you distracted?
God gave moms the amazing ability to do ten things at once. You can be cooking dinner, feeding the dog, ironing a blouse, and making a mental grocery list all at the same time your daughter is telling you about her most horrible day at school.
Make a point to stop what you're doing and look her in the eye when she's talking to you. Let her see that you are really listening to her. Give her your full attention. If you appear distracted she'll feel she might as well be talking to a tree. Tune in to her when she talks to you—let her know that what matters to her is important to you.
Can your daughter trust you?
- Know why I don't talk to my mom anymore? She goes right to her church friends and tells them everything I've told her!
Mom, your daughter needs a safe place to share her heart. You're blessed if she feels comfortable doing that with you. If that trust is broken, it can sometimes be irreparable. It's sacred and worth protecting.
You see, it takes more than just saying she can tell you anything. You also need to prove to your daughter that you are a safe place to share her innermost feelings. If you've ever blown it in this area, you know it can take months to rebuild that trust.
Vulnerable young girls will quickly clam up if they find their private talks haven't been kept private. Be careful not to betray her confidence when she tells you something personal.
Remember when you were her age? It's not easy for young girls to talk about intimate things with their parents, and they can be easily embarrassed. Take extreme caution to protect her confidentiality. It will either encourage your daughter to be more open with you, or it will slam the door of communication shut.
How are you doing? A Mother-Daughter Communication Questionnaire
Take a moment to reflect on the level of communication you have with your daughter. Maybe it's not all her fault if there's stress between you. Be honest.
- I encourage my daughter to bring her questions to me, and she knows I'll give her honest answers. _____True_____False
- My daughter knows she can trust me and is comfortable sharing personal things with me. _____True_____False
- This is a weak area for me. I sometimes share with others things she's told me in confidence. _____True_____False
- We don't keep secrets in our family. She should know that anything she tells me I'll tell her dad. _____True_____False
Probably the best way to find out how you're doing in the area of trustworthiness is to ask your daughter! And when you do, encourage her honesty. She'll let you know if you're a safe place for her.
Tell Her You're There for Her
To develop or maintain open communication with your daughter:
- Assure her that no question is too embarrassing, off-limits, or dirty. She needs someone whom she can ask her questions to and receive honest answers. Let her know you're there for her and want to be that person.
- Don't assume she knows you invite her questions if you haven't told her so. Make it clear that she can come to you with anything at any time.
- Make sure she knows that no matter who else lets her down or doesn't seem to care, you are always there for her—that she can always come to you for help, guidance, or just a lap to lay her head on and cry if she needs to.
You are your daughter's only mother—she needs you to be that person in her life.
Which describes you?
A. My daughter knows I'm her biggest cheerleader and am always there for her.
B. I want to be an approachable mother and need to make some changes to be sure my daughter knows I'm available for her.
C. I'm already too busy and don't have time to baby her. She's a teenager and should be more responsible for herself and solving her own problems.
It's easy to assume our daughters know things we haven't really told them. Make sure your daughter knows beyond all doubt that you're there for her. If you aren't comfortable saying it verbally, write her a letter and leave it on her pillow, or send her an email telling her how you feel.
Again, the more you let her know that you care about what she's going through, the easier it will be for her to open up and talk to you. It may be awkward at first, but it will get easier, and the payoff will be worth all the effort!
Excerpted from: What Your Daughter Isn't Telling You by Susie Shellenberger and Kathy Gowler; Copyright © 2007; ISBN 9780764203756; Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
Photo credit© Getty Images/Prostock-Studio