One of the most complicated relationships out there is between a mother and her teenage daughter.
Something happens to a teenage girl’s perception that makes every utterance from her mother’s mouth unbearably boring, annoying and down right embarrassing.
Having been a teenage girl myself in the very recent past, I can vividly remember a shift from being best friends with my loving mother, to rolling my eyes at her mere presence.
Now—being back in the best friends stage (most of the time)—I can’t explain what caused the shift or what triggered it. I do look back and cringe and realize that my behavior was horribly embarrassing (not the other way around). I know karma will get me back for that if I have a daughter one day. But I also know that I’m not alone here; it was always a topic of conversation with my high school friends about just how “awful” our mothers were.
I have a couple of theories to explain the mother-daughter clash:
The first is the need to rebel. As teenagers, we undoubtedly start to define our own sense of identity. We form opinions of our own and envision what our adult lives will look like. While walking the line between childhood and young adulthood, we test the waters of what we feel we can get away with. We fall victim to peer pressure and our own curiosity and make very questionable decisions. Every time we are told we can’t do something, we want it to do it even more. So when mom says, “don’t date that guy“, she’s really pushing us into his out-stretched arms.
The second theory is that we are actually so similar to our mothers, that we make every effort to deny this by pushing her away. For girls, there is some need to be different than our mothers. How many times have you heard people say with a tinge of disgust “oh my god, I’m turning into my mother.” I hate to break it to you ladies, but we are a product of our mothers. We grew inside her womb for nine months—after all. Whether we like it or not, on some level, we are bound to be similar to our mothers. Maybe it’s recognizing this in ourselves—but desperately trying to deny it—that puts us at odds with mom. Often the things that most annoy us in someone else are the qualities that we too possess. Take me, for example: my mom can’t sit still until she’s had her exercise for the day. As much as I mock her for this, I find myself thinking, “Ok, Camille you should really go for a run before you sit down and watch tv.” So do I say “Hey mom, we’re so alike, I feel the same way you do.” Of course not, because she’s my mom and admitting that we’re not so different is too much to bear.
So how can yoga help support this fragile relationship?
1. Going to yoga together means you’re spending time together and that’s a starting point.
Having a time every week to spend together is really important for mothers and daughters. While it might take convincing, and even bribery to get your daughter on board, once you’ve got her in the car, you’ve opened the door for a dialogue to exist.
Even if it’s as simple as asking how her day went, you’re getting much needed face time with your daughter. Believe it or not, she does want to know that you’re there for her, even if she doesn’t act like it. At the end of the day, if she’s in a fight with her best friends or gets dumped by her boyfriend, your daughter needs her mom. Knowing that she has that time with you each week creates a feeling of security and an unspoken olive branch to show her that your relationship is important.
2. Yoga has awesome benefits for teenagers—benefits that will give you less things to fight about.
Teenagers who participate in regular yoga classes have been shown to have less stress, perform better in school, have higher self-esteem, fewer body-image issues and better coping skills. They are more in touch with their own identity, and better able to make conscious, rational decisions.
When we think about the things that mothers and daughters fight about, they usually have to do with school, boys and doing something against mom’s wishes. Yoga won’t magically make your daughter a straight-A student (if that’s of great importance to you) or a perfect angel. But it can help her to manage stress with mindful breathing before a big test or think twice before following the crowd and doing something dangerous. Perhaps, she will be less reactive when you impose a rule that seems unfair, or better yet, with a more consciously defined idea of her own morals, she may come to those conclusions on her own.
Think of yoga as an outlet for your daughter to blow off steam and honor herself (while you’re at it, think of yoga as a way for you to do the same).
3. Yoga helps us see ourselves and others more clearly, and non-judgmentally.
In yoga class, we release our physical body, but we also find that we open ourselves up mentally and emotionally. Teenagers and busy mothers often have very little time to sit with their thoughts. We have so much screen time and so many obligations and distractions, that stress and the pressure from the outside world creates a major road block to our thoughts. This leads to a barrier to self-exploration, something that is crucial for women of any age to stay in touch with their needs and dreams.
In yoga, we slow down, stretch, twist and breathe. We have a chance to tap into those thoughts and emotions that are under the surface, and come face to face with our true self. When we’re out of touch with ourselves, it’s hard to be open and understanding of others. We often think about the mother-daughter relationship as a one way street where the mom cares for her daughter.
As crazy as it may seem, as young girls, we don’t even think of our mothers as people, just as someone here to provide for us. Crazier still, is that many mothers see themselves this way and don’t make time to cater to themselves. It is crucial for mothers to take the time they need to nourish their own continued growth and self-development, just as their teens daughters do. Yoga is a vehicle for this self-reflection. Participating in this experience together helps both women realize that we are all works in progress and how important it is to have a gentleness in our interactions with one another, accepting that we are all just doing the best we can.
With an open heart, we can accept the things that irk us so much about the other person and perhaps open the door to more constructive and loving communication.
Yoga is not a magic pill that you can take to change your relationship with your daughter, but yoga is undoubtedly magic. With continued commitment, openness, and humility, yoga can change us for the better.
When my own mother reads this post, she’ll without a doubt laugh at the irony because of course I’ve never told her how yoga has changed the way that I relate to her. But, the truth is that it has.
I now consciously practice patience when she’s getting under my skin, I laugh when I hear her thoughts becoming my own, and I am above all grateful for her patience, love, kindness and for loving me when I gave her every reason not to when she was a teenager.
Bridges, K and Madlem, M (2007). Yoga, Physical Education, and Self Esteem: Off the Court and Onto the Mat for Mental Health. California Journal of Health Promotion, 5, (2) 1317.
Kelley, A., Schochet, T., Landry, C. (2004). Risk taking and novelty seeking in adolescence. Adolescent Brain Development, 1021.
McAnarney, E. R.(2008) Adolescent Brain Development; Forging New Links? Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, (4), 321323.
Author: Camille Dodson
Apprentice Editor: Annie R. Towns / Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr