As Mother's Day approaches, you may be thinking about your own relationship with your mom. Despite existing tension or past arguments, you may be ready to repair a strained relationship with your mom—but where do you begin? Use this Mother’s Day to get started. Here are some simple things you can do to heal a rift or just improve your relationship with your mother:
1. Just reach out - before you can begin the process of repairing a strained relationship, it's important to open the lines of communication. Given concerns about the pandemic, meeting in person may not be feasible but a phone call, zoom call or a card is always a good beginning. If you're already in touch with your mom, but you've been avoiding the subject that leads to tension, consider setting up a time to “talk”.
2. Practice gratitude - have compassion for both yourself and your mom. “Showing compassion doesn't mean you have to completely dismiss past hurts or difficulties” says psychologist Kristina Hallett, Pd.D., ABPP. If you, instead, start a practice of intentionally looking for and noticing details that are positive or well-motivated about your, it can change your thinking. One way to really start to understand your mother better is to ask her questions about her upbringing and to remind her of some of the sacrifices she has made for you in the past. This may give you a better sense of her motivations and the way she responds to challenges. Some people, especially from older generations, may be reluctant to talk about their pasts, especially if they were hard. Let your mom know that you simply want to get to know her better and understand your history.
3. Be open-minded - "There is no objectivity in relationships, just subjective experience," emotions educator Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, tells us. In fact, there's a strong likelihood that you and your mother see things from a different perspective. This doesn't mean either of you is necessarily right or wrong, but sometimes when it comes to our parents, our familiarity and many years of experiences together can make us feel more willing to be unyielding in a way that we wouldn't be with other people. Be open to understanding your mom's perspective. Even if she doesn't understand yours, having an open mind can help you begin to move forward.
4. Actively listen - too often—especially in conversations with people we know well—we stop listening and start preparing our response while the other person is still talking. Active listening is the opposite of that. When you're in a conversation with your mom, clear your mind and focus only on listening to what she's saying. Don't think about what you're going to say next, why she's wrong, or judging her for being the way she is. Try to understand her side of the story, even if you don't agree with it. Active listening strengthens your understanding of what she's actually communicating, increases a sense of connection, and offers an opportunity for a new type of interaction.
5. Create realistic expectations - people often have unrealistic expectations of their mothers and what the mother-child relationship should be like, but when neither of you is able to live up to those expectations, it can lead to conflict and sometimes resentment. Try to avoid comparing your relationship with your mom to those you see on TV, to your friends, or to anyone. All parent-child relationships are unique. Just focus on how you can improve your particular relationship with your mother.
6. Be forgiving when you can - yes, your mom made mistakes while you were growing up, and she's probably still making them today. Try to remember that you've made plenty of mistakes along the way, too. If your mom has listened to you, validated your feelings, and apologized for her actions, be willing to offer forgiveness.
7. Accept your differences and grow from them
It’s okay to not have everything in common with your mom. Just because you have different opinions, interests or personalities doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of disagreements. Accept your differences and grow from them. Differences might come off negatively because they bring combativeness sometimes, but the adjustment is finding ways to make [your differences] complimentary.