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How Every Daughter Would Undergo These Different Stages Of Relationship With Their Mothers

How Every Daughter Would Undergo These Different Stages Of Relationship With Their Mothers

People often ask me how I did it. How did I manage to raise a savvy, compassionate, and accomplished daughter? A daughter who is kind to strangers and gives back to her community while nurturing her own relationships? A young woman who graduated from college with superb grades, played sports throughout high school, and has now landed a terrific job in Manhattan? A daughter who consistently makes critical life decisions with the certainty and sagacity of someone twice her age?

To answer these questions in full would require several hours. And, so, I simply offer the truth: I gave her unconditional love while nurturing her through every stage of her life.

I became a mother with no clear examples of how to raise a child, let alone a daughter. Raising a girl is a complex, terrifying endeavor, fraught with anxieties—small and large. As the only child of a single mother who was in desperate need of mothering herself, I tumbled into motherhood, guided by instinct alone.

And yet, it was through my lack of knowledge that I became an avid student. I was careful. I was a close listener, a keen observer. Through this, I found a mother-and-daughter bond that was tremendously satisfying—for the both of us.

Every phase of a person’s life presents its own set of challenges—for the individual and for the parent. Knowing these stages and their complications and delights allows mothers to anticipate what’s coming and plan accordingly. If you also hope to navigate your daughter’s life with grace, ease, and joy, keep in mind the following stages—what to expect, and how to operate, in each phase.

Phase 1: The Itty-Bitty Critter Years

There are few things more wonderful than holding your baby girl for the first time. When my daughter was born, I intuitively knew how to care for her. Yes, she needed nutrition, warmth, and rest. But she also needed my presence.

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That undivided attention cannot be overlooked. It is through our love and tenderness that our daughters first learn how to form a solid foundation of trust.

Such trust comes with countless benefits. Parents often remark that true, unconditional love is a concept that isn’t understood until you’ve had a child. While debatable, the rewards are undeniable. Cooing words and gleeful smiles pave the way to first attempts at sentences. When my daughter was a toddler, she often looked out the window and said, “Mommy, today is so froggy!” It took her a handful of months to realize that froggy and foggy were not actually the same thing, but it’s one of my fondest memories of her.

During these precious early years, it’s vital to tune into your daughter’s natural tendencies. Is she shy, or extroverted? Is she a homebody, or does she thrive outside the front door? What sounds does she respond to? Colors, smells, and sights? Is she fiercely independent, or does she crave emotional and physical attentiveness?

My daughter, who grew up to be brave and individualistic, had the habit of changing her mind on a whim. Weeks of only wanting to wear pants were replaced with months of refusing to put on anything but a dress. While seemingly insignificant, noting this behavior allowed me to see that she loved to explore and thrived on change—a fact that remains true to this day. Noting these idiosyncrasies from the time your daughter is born will ease you into a mutually gratifying—and smooth-sailing—relationship.

It is in this stage that mothers should cherish every non-exhausting moment—raising an infant and toddler doesn’t come without exceptional effort—as our little girls won’t always be babes-in-arms.

Phase 2: The Idealization Stage

Post-toddler, but preteen, many daughters become enamored with their mothers. They’re in awe of their moms, who, in their minds, are glamorous, gorgeous, and wise. While inherently independent, during the ages of five to ten, my daughter had a habit of mimicking my actions and behaviors. She wanted to eat what I ate, wear identical outfits, and clean and cook and fold laundry beside me. While shadowing me, she’d pick up my tone of voice, the words I spoke. During this phase, she rarely wanted to leave my side.

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Yet, it is also within this phase that a daughter’s fear of becoming separated from her mother becomes realized, enhanced, and intense. When younger, children who are well-cared for have an indestructible trust in their conviction that their mothers are always present—even when they’re out of sight. As they near their firsts—their first day of preschool, their first day of kindergarten, their first sleepover away—they can become moody and clingy in their attempts to keep this notion alive. Thus, it’s critical in this time to begin offering your daughter a taste of autonomy. Allowing her to make decisions on her own, if in her best interest, will permit her to become self-reliant while ensuring that you, as the mother, remain the primary force of love and authority in her life.

Phase 3: The Preteen Years

From roughly eleven to thirteen years old, the daughters we had known so well—those little girls who refused to be away from us for any solid length of time when they were small—begin to separate from us emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Signs of autonomy are present in children from an early age. For example, when my daughter was three, she, like all kids, thought the only word that existed in the English language was “no.” But, these indications become clearer and more and more unmistakable during the preteen years. Daughters begin to identify more with their peers than their parents, opting for weekends with friends over Saturdays with their folks, and relying on their peers’ opinions more than their mother’s.

It is at this time that young women also start to see the cracks in their mother’s facade. The pure beauty and righteousness they saw in their mothers when they were younger falters, which leads to frustration on the preteen’s part (not to mention the mother’s!). This is a perfectly natural phase for girls to undergo, as it is only through seeing the flaws (real or perceived) in their primary attachment figure that they can exert the courage they need to create distance.

With such changes—which feel seemingly abrupt—it’s critical to continue being present, no matter how much you’d like to pack a bag and run. Why? Because it is also during this stage that girls become increasingly aware of the opposite sex.

Terrifying, isn’t it?

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While daughters become critical of their mothers, mainly identifying only their negative characteristics, they also become more receptive to the attention of males. This occurs because of the Oedipus precept in reverse: The female must demonstrate to herself that her mother is inadequate in order to make the chief male in her life (her father) love and protect her. Clearly unconscious on the daughter’s part, the focus is nevertheless on exposing that mom is wrong and dad is right. With that arrives keen observations on how to be seen as the apple of her father’s eye. In general, during this phase, females become more and more interested in their looks. They also want mom to be there—but only at a distance. Kissing your daughter goodbye in front of school? Not an option. Volunteering in the classroom? Forget it.

The question of how to react during this stage brings us back to the first stage. As a mother, you may want to run and hide—a feeling that becomes even more overwhelming in the stage that follows—but presence is, once again, absolutely key. Frequent dialogue, physical connection, and positive encouragement can save a mother-daughter bond during this time—and save your daughter’s life in the tumultuous years that arrive next.

More importantly, it’s crucial in this phase to make it lovingly, but abundantly, clear that your daughter is not to cross the line of respect and obedience. This may entail taking away some of her privileges for awhile, and explaining why you are doing so. Your daughter will likely fight you for giving her a curfew, curbing her internet privileges, and watching what she and her friends eat, watch, and read. Deep inside, though, she’ll know that you’re right and will gain respect for you.

Phase 4: Adolescence

Our closest family friend liked to joke that my husband’s hair would turn gray the moment our daughter turned fourteen. We laughed it off in front of him, while in private we believed that we were the exception: Our smart, soccer-playing, sweet-and-only-occasionally-salty daughter wouldn’t become like “those other teenager girls.”

We were dead wrong.

Parents often say that getting through the teenage years are the most trying, exhausting, exhilarating, and petrifying. I’m here to say: Believe every word of it.

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As Dr. Josepehine Ferraro explains, “While mothers are idealized when children are four or five years old, teenagers often see their mothers as being old fashioned or ‘out of it.’  This is another stage where children are learning to separate themselves emotionally from their mothers.”

This need to detach manifests itself in many ways. In trying to attain independence, while feeling the magnetic pull of the bond daughters share with their mothers, they often overreact and act out. When my daughter was in her mid-to late-teens, she’d come home enraged with me, asking why I was home when “most moms have jobs.”

I had to bite my tongue in these heated moments. The truth is, I had a job—my role was to raise her. “Get a life!” was also yelled with such frequency that it was the only phrase I heard in my head. Yet, within minutes of yelling this and slamming her door, my daughter would emerge from her bedroom to give me a hug and ask what we were having for dinner. During their teens, daughters want you to hold them tight… but they also want you an ocean away.

Keep in mind that your daughter is experiencing a wide range of emotions that are primarily due to hormonal changes. She’s also under incredible pressure during these years—to fit in, get ahead, look great, play sports, perform brilliantly in the classroom, achieve popularity, and land acceptance at a good college. The anxiety she has over leaving home, coupled with her wish to be strong and autonomous, starts to surface. As she navigates these changes and challenges, it’s important for mothers to retain their temper. Refuse to engage in senseless arguments. Explain that what she’s feeling is entirely normal and inevitable. Offer counsel, candor, and solace. Most importantly, set boundaries—and stick to them. You’ll both thank each other later for it.

Phase 5: Early Adulthood

While adolescence is difficult for both mother and daughter, early adulthood presents its own set of difficulties. Post-college, many young women confront the same pressures they faced in high school, only on a much grander scale. From choosing a career they’re passionate about to selecting a mate, women in this decade are much more overwhelmed than ever before. My daughter recently moved to New York City after scoring a prestigious position. Aiding her in finding an apartment and shopping for a new wardrobe brought back memories of her final years in high school. She was overwrought, antsy, and prone to unloading her troubles on me.

It’s also during this time that daughters have a tendency to realize that, like all humans, their mothers are mortal and imperfect. They’ll attempt to carve out an existence unlike their mothers, while also seeking their validation. The greatest lesson we can teach our daughters during these years is the the significance of self-respect. With it comes self-esteem, ambition, and perseverance. And the greatest satisfaction during this phase? Reclaiming the bond you two shared before adolescence hit, and witnessing the brave woman she’s becoming.

Phase 6: The Thirties and Beyond

By the time your daughter has reached her thirties, you will note how your relationship has blossomed and morphed over time. No longer competitive with you, she’s gained stability, recognition, and independence. It’s often during this era that mothers and daughters begin communicating on a peer-to-peer level. With a family of her own, she turns to you for guidance, and yet through maturity has developed a worldview of her own. She teaches you as much as you advise her. And such is the beauty to behold: The extraordinary woman you’ve created.

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Last Updated on July 15, 2020

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

“Entitlement is an expression of conditional love. Nobody is ever entitled to your love. You always have a right to protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being by removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances.” -Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson

It’s not always obvious if you have someone toxic in your life. A toxic relationship is one that is harmful to you. A toxic person can create distress to the degree you feel inadequate and isolated. So, what makes a toxic person?

A toxic person has toxic behavior, meaning it’s not that the whole person is toxic[1]. It’s what they do that counts. Most toxic people run from accountability and misrepresent reality to you. They misrepresent your worth and your ability to heal from them can be stifled the longer you keep them in your life. You have a role to play with it as well; if your values are dismissed by them and you don’t act on it, you have allowed room for toxicity to grow.

When you are in a toxic relationship, you feel less than. You feel as though you are not worth anyone’s time or effort. You feel unheard, and sometimes you feel unsafe. You don’t feel good about yourself in a toxic relationship, whether it be with a partner, friend, or family member.

You may stay in a toxic relationship for a number of reasons. You may believe yourself to be a burden, have a lack of boundaries, resist change, fear conflict, try to be a people pleaser, find yourself codependent, or are partially stuck in a pattern or unhealthy cycle of abuse.

Letting go of toxic people may not be easy. In order to do so, you have to know why or how they are toxic to you and read between the lines that they do not have your best interests in mind.

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Letting go of toxic people is hard because you are good and want to see the good in others. You think their apologies are authentic. You have trouble believing they are being dishonest. You don’t spend time healing from it. You get pulled back into the pain because you don’t want it to end. However, if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right.

You should walk away from a toxic person because you need to preserve your peace. You need to feel like yourself again. And you need better support.

Letting go of toxic people can involve four major steps.

1. Recognize the Red Flags

Red flags are signs a person is being toxic. It’s when someone shows characteristics that you should feel caution about. It’s when you feel any level of dissatisfaction and distrust. Trust your gut. When you recognize red flags, you can evaluate whether a person is trying to manipulate you or not. This gives you some level of control over what you allow in your life. The earlier you detect these behaviors, the better off you will be.

Red flags can include:

  • They always put themselves first.
  • They point out imperfections and sabotage your self-esteem.
  • You may feel drained or used when you’re around them.
  • What you give isn’t reciprocated. They don’t return the goodness you provide as a friend.
  • They ignore your boundaries and get angry when you tell them “no.”
  • You catch them in half truths or outright lies when you confront them about anything.
  • You are the villain; they are the victim.
  • Second chances always lead to repeated patterns of behavior.
  • They may engage in abuse.

2. Set Boundaries

There are emotional boundaries that one can set, but there are also physical ones[2]. You can leave any time. Setting boundaries is also an important part of self-care.

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You shouldn’t walk on eggshells. Tell them how you feel. Are they respecting you, fulfilling your needs, and listening to you? If not, it’s time to set up a healthy emotional distance and start letting go of toxic people around you.

There are levels to this. You have your inner circle, which could include family, and then you have acquaintances and strangers. If a toxic person is in your inner circle, it’s time to pull back and put up some boundaries for them to follow. If they can’t hear you out, you can cut off the connection completely.

You can give second chances, but you have to be careful. If someone knows they can get away with something, they will do it again. If there’s any chance for the relationship, they have to know not to cross certain lines.

3. Invest in Yourself

You deserve to know you are worthwhile. Try to remember that things will get better and that anything is possible. How do you do so? Invest in yourself.

This means self care, goal setting, surrounding yourself with positive support, and feeling a sense of peace. Your greatest ambition should be to love yourself. Without self-love, letting go of toxic people will be difficult.

Every relationship is a risk, but if you know yourself and what you will allow, toxic people will have less of a hold over you. If you are a giver or people pleaser, you are most at risk to being in a one-sided relationship. You shouldn’t be punished for caring, but sometimes trust needs to be earned. If you have self-love, you are treating yourself the best way possible. You know that others need to meet your standards; otherwise, they don’t get to be a part of your life.

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It’s possible that you can love yourself and still not see the signs. It can be difficult for some to be aware that toxic people exist. However,, if you know how much you mean to others in your life and what you are worth, you will be less likely to take on a relationship that is harmful to you or repeat negative patterns. Self-love is how we get out of toxic relationships, but it’s also how they never begin.

4. Know When Forgiveness Is Possible

There are times a person will prove their worth to you. They may make a mistake that makes them seem like a horrible person. They may forget to be good to you because of their own issues. They may just have no example of what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have an inflated ego that really comes from insecurity. The list goes on.

If they apologize, that’s a start. Look at their actions. Are they changing for the better because they really want to change or just seeming to in order to manipulate you? A person may control others with their image or perceived personality, but if you see through them, you may be able to discern the degree to which they are willing to be there for you.

If they start to do the right thing, you may begin to trust them again. Don’t start forgiving them until time has passed and you are sure there is growth, even if they show vulnerability or remorse. You can give a second chance if they truly have an awakening. Otherwise, it’s best to get out. Don’t let them walk all over you; let them walk out the door.

If you do give a second change and they still refuse to change, you have every right to remove them and continue the process of letting go of toxic people. The moment you even want to leave may also be a good time to get out. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to care for them.

Forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger[3]. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You have to go back to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone. You don’t have to let them back in. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

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Remember, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not them. You don’t need that person in your life in order to forgive them, and if you give them a second chance, proceed with caution.

Final Thoughts

Recognize the red flags, set boundaries, invest in yourself, and know when forgiveness is possible. This is how you cope with a toxic person impacting your life. You have power in the direction of your life and the people who accompany you as you move forward. Use it.

If a person is worthwhile, they will prove themselves through their actions, not their words. If they cross certain lines that really harm you, you owe them nothing. You have every right to feel what you feel and to be upset. Honor your feelings and communicate them because it’ll only continue to keep happening if you don’t.

If this is happening to you, it’s time to put a stop to it. It’s time to take control. It’s time to live for yourself, not for what others say about you. It’s time to set your standards higher than they’ve ever been before. And most of all, it’s time to let go.

Resource reminder: A physically abusive relationship is ALWAYS toxic. There are resources for you. Always speak up.

If you are in such a cycle or domestic violence or abuse reach out for help. For example, there is The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) which can be reached at 1−800−799−7233. There are other ways to get help if you simply ask for it. 

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Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

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