Have you ever been in a conversation with your daughter and she abruptly slams the door in your face? It’s that moment when you’re having a conversation about what she’s going to wear to school tomorrow, and all of a sudden, it’s an angry burst of energy that feels uncalled for or unexplainable.
“Hormones!” You may say. “Or maybe it’s because I asked about school!” All this could be true, but it’s important not to miss the weight of the conversation and the actual conversing.
We therapists talk about content versus process all the time. Content can be best explained as the thing you’re talking about; it’s the substance or what’s in the conversation. The process is the meaning beneath the meaning. In other words, the process of a conversation is what feelings develop as you are conversing with the person. This is the most crucial part of any conversation.
As the mother of your daughter, you have been having conversations with your daughter since she was young. In fact, you were most likely the first conversation partner she ever had. This means there are eons of conversations filled with content and process that have been underestimated for years.
So, whether your daughter is 12 or 22, there’s always room to improve communication and learn to really hear her in a conversation. What better time to get to know your daughter than right now?
Here are three tips to best converse with your daughter:
1. Learn to Ask the Right Questions.
Questions are used to help us increase curiosity of one another. Good questions avoid appearing as leading questions, namely questions that are directed to the answer that you think you’ll hear. Good questions are also asked in the following framework: who, how, when, where, what. Never why. “Why” questions are often viewed as condemning or judgmental.
2. Use Your Brain Data.
Remember that in your conversing, your daughter is subconsciously aware of every previous conversation and interaction she’s had with you, as you are with her. Our brains actually hold data for us to remind us if we’ve felt safe, betrayed, irritated, or happy in conversations with other people; it’s a means of keeping our brains and bodies safe.
Odds are if you’re feeling frustrated in conversation, your daughter’s brain data is probably telling her the same thing. This means that it’s important to tread lightly and with care for your daughter in conversation. Don’t get hung up in the content; be aware of the feelings in the conversation.
If you feel overwhelmed, find ways to calm down your brain and body while in the conversation, and encourage your daughter to do the same. If it feels impossible to do so, it may be time to get a therapist or other outside party involved in the conversation.
3. Create Rhythms.
A rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. If your daughter is biologically yours, she heard your heartbeat first. This means that the heartbeat of your life was one of the first rhythms she knew. We humans are created for rhythms.
So, it only makes sense to have rhythms for your daughter as she continues to grow older. Rhythms can be created in scheduling time together and understanding the movements of each other’s lives.
This can happen through sitting down for meals, walking the dog together, or enjoying the same TV show or sport. Find out what rhythms work for the two of you and meet her there. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll have to talk about it if you’re in a rhythm together.
Combining these three techniques are a starting point to further conversations. Your daughter is a major part of your life, and of your role as a mother. Closeness with her is a worthy pursuit. If you feel stuck in conversation and would like to learn more about how to develop healthy conversations with your daughter, schedule an appointment today. I’d be glad to be a part of the conversation.
Couples & Adolescent Therapist
I believe that you can be free from the circumstances that are holding you back; whether that’s the anxiety that leaves you frozen, or possibly the depression that makes you withdraw and isolate from the ones you love.
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