It’s back-to-school time. And, things get busy fast! The desire of your heart is to maintain some quality time with your daughter but so many demands interfere. Plus, your daughter may seem disinterested in those “meaningful conversations.” Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar:
You come home from work to find your daughter quietly watching TV. You ask, “Hi honey, how was your day?” She responds with the classic “fine,” and she either: (1) Says nothing more -Or- (2) Twenty-five seconds later she slams her bedroom door.
You wonder: “what was that all about? I just asked her about her day!” The frustration of failed communication can lead to arguing, disappointment, and feelings of resentment for you and your daughter. And, with very busy school-year schedules it can be even more difficult to enjoy shared time.
While there is not an easy answer to this problem, many families have found it helpful to “make an appointment” for one-on-one time together.
Why make an appointment?
This may sound silly, but it’s important for your daughter to know that you’re available. Provide her with a special time each week (or every couple weeks) where you get together and allow her space to talk about whatever she wants. Invite her on a date! You may get eye rolls and guffaws initially, but once she realizes that this time is set aside just for her and she gets to talk about anything she wants, well, she eventually will.
Select a place together:
Involve her in selecting a place she’ll enjoy: her favorite coffeehouse, a hike in the hills, a car ride to Jamba Juice. Letting her select the place will help her understand that this really is her special time.
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, offers a conversation starter for these appointments: “I’m so glad we’re doing this. I know we’re both so busy but I really want to check in with you. Even if you think this is boring, I want you to know that whatever’s going on in your life is important to me, yet I also respect your privacy. So I thought we could spend some time together and you can tell me what you feel comfortable with.”
No matter how superficial it might seem–if your daughter is talking to you, it’s a good thing! Remember, this appointment is a time for your daughter to talk about ANYTHING: movies, clothes, the annoying thing her little brother did (which you’ve already heard about 3 times), friendship, books, the goofy thing that happened at school, or her desire for world peace. While we may long for conversations in which she reveals her soul, remember: many girls show glimpses of their deepest selves in words about every day things. The character in the movie they like best, the theme in the book that speaks loudest to them–this helps us know who they are. All conversations are a gift.
Though this sounds easy, it’s actually the most difficult to accomplish. Here’s how these conversations can go sideways (also from Queen Bees & Wannabes):
“Mother: So what’s up with Kathy? You seem to be spending a lot of time with her. Daughter: (silence for five seconds) Mother: Does she do well in school? Does she hang out with anyone I know? Do I know her parents?”
Wiseman says, “In this scenario you need to admit that your goal isn’t finding out what’s up with your daughter. Instead, your agenda is to communicate your anxiety and worry that Kathy isn’t a good influence.” It’s important that we separate our own anxiety about our daughter’s choices from the importance of taking time to just listen. Listening makes these moments opportunities for connection. Be as open and non-judgmental as possible. Again, your daughter will open up if she feels you are open to what she has to say.
What to avoid:
The appointment isn’t the time to deal with high conflict issues. No, don’t rehash the argument about curfew or bust her for a bad grade.
Hopefully these tips for a successful one-on-one appointment will help as the busy new school year begins. Be patient, open and respectful and remember that your daughter wants to connect with you, even when she doesn’t show it. Who knows, maybe after sharing several appointments, the next time you ask, “How was your day?” she might actually tell you.
Check out Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman for more parenting tips.
Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.