It’s not a question of if your daughter’s moods stress you out, it’s a matter of what you can do to reduce the stress you both feel. You may not cause your daughter’s stress level, but you do have the ability to teach her to effectively manage it. Here are some expert tips from psychotherapist of TLC’s new series Big Medicine Mary Jo Rapini, M.Ed, LPC and OB/GYN nurse practitioner Janine J. Sherman, MSN, WHNP-BC, both authors of the book Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever.
Stress is a common mother-daughter experience
When your teen’s hormone — and friendship — fluctuations are in high drive and your nerves have been sassed and moped raw, tension, stress and heated arguments (or staunch silent treatments) are inevitable. You may feel like the only mom in the world with a surly inconsolable daughter, but you aren’t alone — and deep down you know it. You just wish there was some way to help your daughter deal with her stress.Authors Rapini and Sherman know how difficult it is to talk to daughters about — well, anything, but particularly — personal changes — the two women have daughters of their own. But they also know how critical it is for moms and daughters to have an open and ongoing dialogue to help moms raise healthy confident daughters and for daughters to have a safe place to ask the growing myriad of questions about becoming a woman.Rapini and Sherman say, “Our goal is to inspire open communication between mothers and daughters — to generate memorable conversations and unforgettable table talks.” And their book Start Talking is an invaluable resource to do just that. With more than 113 questions commonly asked by moms and daughters, ranging from periods and sex to self-esteem and dating, Start Talking presents answers, sample conversations and real-life stories that make touchy topics palpable and meaningful.
Helping your daughter deal with stress
Stress is part of life and, though it inappropriately seems to be hitting kids younger and younger, there is no way to eliminate it completely. Regardless of your daughter’s age, teaching her effective coping skills will not only help her deal with the teenage scourge of stressors, it will also give her stress-reducing tools to benefit her for a lifetime. Here are some tips from Start Talking when your daughter is giving you all the signs she is stressed out.
Ask your daughter what’s wrong. Listen calmly and nonjudgementally, allowing your daughter to express her opinions. And ask questions like, “Then what happened?” or “How did that make you feel?” to get the whole story.
Notice out loud
Casually observe your child’s feelings and let her know you are interested in hearing more — without sounding accusatory.
Comment on your daughter’s feelings
Show her that you understand and care by saying something like, “That must have been upsetting.” This will help your daughter feel more connected to you.
Provide emotional support
Don’t criticize or belittle your daughter’s stressful feelings, even if they do appear trivial to you. Remember that teens don’t have an adult perspective and issues relating to relationships and body image are extremely important to them.
Provide realistic expectations
Celebrate your daughter’s successes (even if they aren’t exactly what you’d hoped for) and let her know you’re proud of her. Also, share with her that you, too, feel stressed sometimes and that occasionally feeling stressed is normal.
Provide structure, stability and predictability
Preparing your daughter for potentially stressful situations, like a healthcare appointment (particularly her first gynecological visit), will help ease her worries. Also, in general, make sure she understands your rules and routines and sticks to them — or will have to deal with the consequences. Don’t bend or change rules in stressful situations — it’s wiser for her to prepare herself for an upcoming stressful event. By keeping boundaries and expectations predictable, you actually help lower your daughter’s stress.
Model positive coping skills
If you practice good problem-solving and coping skills — like exercising, laughing, or taking a break to reduce your own stress level — your child will learn from you. Don’t criticize yourself or your daughter — ever!
Help your child brainstorm a solution
Suggest activities that will help your daughter feel better now while also solving the problem. Encourage her to come up with creative solutions on her own — this will help build her self-esteem.
Teach your daughter good organizational and time-management skills early on. This can make homework and other responsibilities more manageable and less overwhelming and stressful. It also helps her gain time to relax. Easy starting points: suggest she set out her clothes and books the night before, pack a healthy lunch, write her to-do things down for the day or week.
Just be there
Your daughter may not want to talk but you being available to take a walk or watch a movie together can let her know you care — and she’ll appreciate your presence.
Get professional help
If your daughter’s behavior seems way out of character and she’s having trouble functioning at school or at home or is she’s exhibiting serious anxiety, ask your doctor to refer you to a mental health specialist.
Additional stress-reducing tips
These are just a few of the helpful tips Rapini and Sherman present in Start Talking. Start here and then pick up the book for you and your daughter. Developing good communication skills is only one of the outcomes — Start Talking also fosters raising a daughter who is confident, healthy and happy. That alone can do wonders in reducing your own stress and allow you to be confident in your parenting practices as well as healthy and happy, too.