How your relationship with your mum shapes you, according to a psychologist

The relationship a daughter has with her parents, and in particular, her mother, can have a huge impact on her life.

The mother-daughter relationship is a powerful bond that can have long lasting effects on the daughter’s physical, emotional and psychological well being. It’s a relationship shapes the daughter’s identity in many ways and can impact her sense of self-worth and self-esteem, along with her health as a whole. It’s a daughter’s first attachment relationship, and therefore needs to be one filled with nurture and love.

A healthy mother-daughter relationship should look like most other healthy relationships; one that is developed on strong foundations and with the best intentions of the child at heart.

Mothers and daughters can have a naturally close connection, which should be built on a mutual love and respect for each other.

The mother-daughter relationship looks different in every family, usually differs between each person and in every stage of the daughter’s development. From a young age, the daughter might start out idolizing their mother, yet when they reach their teenage years they could resist their mother’s presence and affection in an attempt to exert independence.

Typically, as the daughter gets older they again begin to see their mother as a source of support and love even as their best friend, someone who understands them completely and someone to confide in. Throughout the relationship, mothers should always act as a foundation of love, guidance and support for their daughter, guiding them through their developmental years and beyond, even during those difficult adolescent years!

Some of the closer mother-daughter relationships can tend to act like best friends, however it is important to communicate clear boundaries and allow each other to be individuals. Be mindful that a mother-daughter relationship is very different to a best friend relationship and needs to be treated as such. An intense togetherness can have negative effects in that the daughter may not feel like an individual or she may overstep boundaries.

Mothers and daughters can definitely become competitive with each other, usually due to being so similar and the mother seeing the daughter live a more abundant life compared to what she had. Seeing a daughter flourish can sometimes highlight a mother’s own disappointments in herself for not achieving as much or doing the things she wanted to do with her life. For some, their daughter’s achievements will be their own as well and be a great source of pride.

Throughout the course of a mother-daughter relationship, the mother and daughter won’t always be best of friends. There will be times when the daughter sees her mother as a goddess like figure and then other times (usually throughout the teenage years) that the daughter will act out against their mother’s wishes and see them as an annoyance in their lives.

Usually by the time the daughter reaches their 20s and 30s, they might see their mother as their best friend again. Throughout this, mother’s need to remain patient, supportive and compassionate. Find a balance between closeness and valuing your daughter’s independence, allowing her support whilst going through the process of development.

A mother should demonstrate a strong interest in the emotional and practical ideas that her daughter displays by being an active listener, communicating and setting boundaries. Make sure your daughter understands the relationship she has with you by clearly defining how she should behave and setting an example yourself. Allow your daughter to develop a strong sense of self, teach her to believe in herself and instil a sense of self-worth in her, which in turn creates self-respect.

Mother’s play a huge role in the development of the daughter’s self-esteem. No matter the type of relationship they have, it can have far reaching effects on the development and socialization of daughters.

Mothers need to be deeply aware in what they convey to their daughters about their own self-esteem as their daughters are likely to carry this as well. A mother’s own self confidence can affect her daughter’s self-esteem in that it can teach her how to view herself. It is important for a mother to display a positive self-esteem in order to give her daughter a healthy outlook.

A mother should also practice talking positively about other women to teach her daughter great values and respect for other women, as well as for herself. When this does not happen, it can result in the daughter having a negative view of herself or mimicking the same negative self-talk that she heard from her mother.

Mothers can also help daughters shape their values and expectations about how others should treat them. Through a process called social learning, we learn from what we see. Therefore, a mother modelling respectful relationships can be just as positive as modelling positive self-esteem and self-love. It is easier for a daughter to emulate when she has had a real life example to model it off.

If you are reading this and going over all the things you wish you had differently, don’t despair. It is never too late to improve and repair your relationships. Nor does a few fights or poor modelling mean that a daughters life is in anyway doomed.

Don’t underestimate the power of open and honest conversation, and the impact other supportive adults can have in a young women’s life. It would be cruel of me at this point not to say a huge thank-you to my own mum. Mother to 5 children, grandmother to 8 (almost 9!) overcoming cancer, twice! You are a great source of love and support to the whole family, including me. Love you, Mum!

Breanna Jayne Sada is a Lysn psychologist.