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Dear Dr. Batya,
My teenage daughter is driving me crazy. She feels we disagree with her and judge her unfairly. Often we are simply trying to have a conversation with her, yet she misinterprets our comments, becoming easily offended. We are trying to be helpful and kind, not ruining her life or interfering. We often feel her rejection, the silent treatment and her criticism. Some days we think even our breathing gets on her nerves. She rolls her eyes and gives us a look. Once we could read her signals. Not anymore. Talking seems to make it worse. Please, can you help?
Have you ever considered writing her a letter? This will allow you to express your feelings without losing your cool and she may read it when she is calm and alone. Remember, she feels one way and you another, so you have to put yourself in her shoes, and imagine both what you were thinking as you wrote and what she is thinking and feeling as she reads it.
You think: I lovingly want to "make" you perfect.
She thinks: I don't need your help.
You think: Let's work together as a team.
She thinks: It always has to be Mom's way.
You think: I love when you get excited over something, throw your arms around me and act as if I am your best friend.
She thinks: Isn't this great. I want to share this with you, Mom. I love you.
You think: Hmm. You just told me I was the greatest. Why are you no longer talking to me and acting like I said something horrible?
She thinks: Did I lose my mind? How could I for one minute believe you'd understand? I'll never talk to you again.
You think: I absolutely love watching you grow up. You spend hours in front of the mirror and have more energy for your hair in one day than I have in a year.
She thinks: My hair is ugly, I'm ugly. Mom's staring at me so I must be really ugly.
You think: With your sense of fashion, I find myself coming to you as I value your opinion.
She thinks: Poor woman. You can't put two things together that match.
You think: Maturing and taking on more responsibility must be scary. The world out there is complex. Let us protect you a while longer.
She thinks: You are sooo overprotective and don't trust me.
You think: You ask amazing questions. I love how you think.
She thinks: They think my questions are dumb and I am even dumber. I know just what I am doing and they don't trust me at all. Why can't they ever believe in me?
You think: Some days you seem so free-spirited and other days you seem caught up with the demands of the world around you. It must be hard to understand the changes that you are going through.
She thinks: They always think I am so moody.
You think: Why do you get so hysterical with every ache and pain?
She thinks: I am dying and no one even cares.
You think: There are times when I want to give you a big hug and tell you that everything will be okay.
She thinks: Yeah right. Don't embarrass me. You're making me uncomfortable.
You think: I'd like to kiss and hold you but you'd probably pull away in embarrassment.
She thinks: Why don't you ever reach out and hug me? You don't care about me.
You think: Why are you always fighting and picking on your siblings?
She thinks: Why do you always take their side?
You think: Why are you critical of every word I say?
She thinks: Why do you pick on everything I say?
You think: You never listen to me.
She thinks: You never listen to me. You think what I have to say isn't important.
You think: She's always on the phone.
She thinks: I have no friends.
You think: All of the books say that mother-daughter fighting is important. This is how they say you will ultimately learn to manage conflict, have confidence and good self-esteem and competently negotiate the world.
She thinks: Mom, give it a rest. Stop trying to be a shrink.
You think: I guess there will always be challenging moments - some will be easier for us than others. I want you to know that even when you think you can't stand me a minute longer, I will always be here for you. I have faith in you.
She thinks: I love you Mom - even when you drive me crazy.
Get the picture? Now, take a deep breath and start the letter: My dearest darling daughterâ€¦ As you become a woman, I lovingly want to make you perfect butâ€¦ see that you are wonderful and a special lady without my helpâ€¦
Good luck!! The one thing I promise is that it is never easy.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ra'anana. This column offers general psychological advice and is not intended to replace treatment by a mental health professional.