Friday, May 19, 2006

The Happiest Mother's Day

I just had a great week.

My parents came to visit over Mother's Day weekend, and even though they stayed with me in my small apartment, I can still say we had a fabulous time.

You might have seen the pre-mother's day piece I did on getting along with mom every day of the year, not just Mother's Day. Its easy to send a card with insincere inscriptions like

"I love you for the wise advise you give so expertly." "I love the way you are smart, the way you are generous." "Hey mom, you've been voted most lovable mom of the year!" "Mom, you might ask yourself how did my daughter turn out so wonderful?" You open the card to a big fold out cartoon dog holding a banner that reads "Role Model!"

Imnotmad_1 However, I can remember back when I was in junior high, high school and college, and even up to just a few years ago, those famous mother-daughter spats my mom and I shared. I'm sure many of you mothers and daughters can relate.

Smtrustmemom_1 To help moms and daughters improve their relationship, and maybe even say meaningful nice things to each other, I spoke with Clinical Psychologist,

Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler of Weston. After seeing adolescent girls and their moms in therapy for about 20 years, she wrote the book, "I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict."

Sandler_stressed_3 She is also the author of "Trust Me, Mom - Everyone Else Is Going" and "Stressed-Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure" which is due out in paperback soon.

I asked Dr. Cohen-Sandler what moms and daughters commonly say about each other.

She said "I think children of any age talk about their moms being very bossy and very critical. All a mom has to do is look at her daughter, and especially if she is a teenager she thinks, why is mother looking at me like this? She thinks her mother is criticizing her and thinking she could be doing something better. Even if the mother doesn't say a word."

However I know daughters are famous for throwing around a few glances themselves. My mom always used to accuse me of the "evil eye."

Dr. Cohen-Sandler says when the mother tries to offer advice, like "Maybe you should change your clothes, or maybe you should do this differently?" Then she says girls think "Oh, my mother is so critical of me" and get very angry about it.

So here is the advice: Dr. Cohen-Sandler suggests mothers choose their battles. She says to "pick out the things you really want to be critical about and make an issue out of those. All the rest, let slide. It's better to have harmony and good feelings in the relationship with your daughter and save your energy for when it really matters."

As for the girls, she says they can say to their moms, "I'm feeling like you are really being critical of me and criticizing me and you are making me feel bad. " The daughter needs to check it out with mom. Ask "Is this something you are really upset about?" Don't assume she is really being as critical as she seems.

To help communication between mothers and daughters of any age, Dr. Cohen-Sandler says it pays to think about WHEN you are going to bring up something that is bothering you. She says if you as a mother have been stewing about an issue all day long while your daughter is at school, DON'T pick the moment she walks in the door to address it. She needs time to unwind, decompress and maybe have a snack. Instead, Dr. Cohen-Sandler says bring it up when you are in the car together. The rocking motion can be soothing, plus you are not facing each other, so it doesn't feel like such a confrontation. She also recommends talking before bedtime because teens are more mellow at that time.

Dr. Cohen-Sandler says one of the biggest problems with mothers and daugthers is that we take liberties with each other. We say things to each other that we wouldn't say to anyone else. Plus she says ANGER is an issue moms need to teach their daughters to deal with. She says even when moms are angry, they need to be respectful. "No name calling, and not saying things in anger that are hurtful or accusatory." She says you need to tell your daughter you are upset, but to say it in words, not act it out. Plus you shouldn't feel like you have to express your anger right off the bat. She says give yourself some time to calm down. The issue will still be there after you take some time to cool off.

Even if you don't believe this next part, she says teenagers want their mother's opinions more than moms know. Although of course teens are going to act as though mom's opinion doesn't matter. So that is why she says moms shouldn't call an outfit "ridiculous." She says that word can be insulting. Instead, she tells moms they should say something like " have you thought about a different outfit?" Or "have you thought about the fact that outfit is very tiny and it's cold out and you are going to be freezing today?" or even "that outfit is going to bring you a lot of attention you might not want."

She reminds us that the mother-daughter relationship is a very special one, but one that can be full of difficulties. So she says Mother's Day is a great time to really think about and reflect on what we've gotten from each other and how we treasure our relationship. By the way, I didn't buy my mother any of those cards at the store. Instead, I paid the extra three bucks to have wrap the DVD I bought her and include a card in which I wrote a personal message, perfectly typed and signed by Amazon.