5 Ways to Strengthen Your Bond with Mom
Terri Orbuch PhD, known as “The Love Doctor, has been a practicing marriage and relationship therapist for more than 20 years. A research professor at the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan and a professor at Oakland University, she is also the author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Here she applies her savvy about relationships to the mother/daughter bond.
Mother’s Day is a day to honor and celebrate our moms. Yet some adult children aren’t enamored with the holiday. I’ve had clients tell me they feel obligated to send their mom a card, mostly out of guilt or a sense of cultural pressure from peers and the media.
If you have a bah-humbug attitude toward Mother’s Day, I’m going to show you a new way to approach it. You aren’t alone if you feel that the bond you had with your mom when you were a young has changed. As we grow up, we also grow apart. Perhaps you’ve fallen into a relationship rut with your mom, or call her every so often just to check in, but not really to connect.
Whether you want to repair your relationship with your mom, or simply want to get closer and enjoy your relationship more, here are five strategies I hope you’ll try this Mother’s Day.
Look for the positive. There will be ups and downs in any relationship. Instead of focusing on what your mother does wrong (from your perspective) or the struggles you have with her, shift your attention to all that she does right and what’s good about your relationship. Before Mother’s Day, take 10 minutes and write down a handful of things you really appreciate about your mother. Then either jot them down in a note for Mother’s Day, or read those qualities to her over the phone. She will love it more than any store-bought card or candy.
Let differences slide. You and your mother have different backgrounds, opinions, and lifestyles. You may have struggled with those differences when you were younger, but now it’s time to acknowledge and respect her thoughts and feelings. Life is short, so this year, resolve to let the differences slide off your back. She has an annoying habit of contradicting you? Laugh it off. She still gives you a hard time about divorcing? Tell her you value her opinion. You’re not going to change her, so accept her. Once you do, you’ll feel a great sense of relief and less strain between you.
Get real with her. Do you ever notice that you don’t talk to your mother the same way you talk to your friends? When was the last time you told her about your job, your relationship, or the things that keep you up at night? Think to yourself: Does she know my personal goals and fears in life? Strengthen your relationship by opening up new lines of communication between you and your mother. Too often we make small talk with our mothers. Deepen the conversation and try asking her advice about something important to you. You might discover that she is not only older than you, but wiser too.
Ask about her. Do you know what your mother’s days are like? Who are her best friends? How does she feel about world events? What does she love to do? What worries her? These are the kinds of questions we forget to ask our mothers. You may have gotten into a superficial pattern of chatter with your mom that goes both ways–you don’t really share your inner life with her, nor does she share her real self with you. Break the pattern! Many people discover new and interesting aspects of their parents once they start asking the right questions.
Shake up the routine. This Mother’s Day, resolve to make a date (it doesn’t have to be on Mother’s Day) to do something new with your mom. Go bowling. Rent a movie with her. Take a scenic car ride. Bake cupcakes together. One of the best ways to strengthen bonds between loved ones is to gently knock them off balance so you can get out of a relationship rut. Once you do this with your mother, you might be surprised by how changed the quality of the conversation is, or how differently she responds to you.