“Since Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is ruined. And every city or household divided against itself will not last.

Matthew 12:25

This Scripture teaches that unity is critical for building a strong household. However, during the teen years, moms and daughters can have a very difficult time getting along.

Girls go through emotional, spiritual and physical changes during adolescence that can confound their parents. In addition to the normal hormonal changes a parent might expect, teen girls develop a desire for more independence and begin to think more abstractly during adolescence. These changes can be confusing, complex and challenging for both mom and daughter as they struggle to understand each other and often struggle to be close.

In our Y-ministry, we have hundreds of moms and daughters who have navigated this tumultuous period, and every year we see many more families begin their own journey. One of the things we really believe in is helping to teach both parents and teenagers how to navigate closeness through honest conversations.

This summer we worked with many teen girls who made a decision to pursue a relationship with God. In that pursuit, they worked on their relationship with their mothers. The following, though not comprehensive, are several lessons learned from these girls you might find helpful when thinking about parenting daughters.

1. Make sure to level with them

But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another..
1 John 1:7 (Message)

I think most girls want to talk but sometimes they need their mother to start the conversation. As this Scripture says, when we walk in the light, we experience a shared life with one another. Your teen may not know how to initiate this kind of honesty, and that’s where she needs you to take the lead.

When parents aren’t vulnerable, they can come across self-righteous and unapproachable. For example, they become angry when their child does something they don’t approve of and they forget that they often experience the same temptations, struggles and feeling that their kids are experiencing.

In addition, many teen girls have been involved in behavior they are too afraid to communicate to their mothers – including deceit, hatred, impurity, substance use, and sometimes immorality. Don’t be naive. Guilt, regret, and shame can cause fear, distance, isolation and turmoil in a teen girl’s relationship with her mom. Your child is typical if she is not telling you everything and if she is afraid to be honest.

If you want your teenager to be honest with you, the best thing you can do is be honest with them.

2. Always watch your reactions

Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
John 3:20 (Message)

Fear of a painful exposure will make any of us run away from the light. Girls often feel afraid to talk about what they really feel and are even more afraid to be honest with their moms about things they have done because they are afraid of an angry reaction. Anger causes teens to shut down and isolate. Instead of stopping the behavior that made their parent angry, they often opt to simply continue the behavior in secret.

Getting angry at your teen teaches them that openness is a bad thing. It teaches them that honesty is painful instead of freeing.

What have you been teaching your teen about honesty? Would your teen say you value honesty, even if it’s messy?

3. Cut them some slack

Your daughter needs space to make mistakes and to try things on her own. Of course, parents only want the best for their children. They want to see them succeed and avoid the mistakes they made. But sometimes, in an effort to protect their children, parents become overbearing just as teenagers are seeking independence.

In order for teens to build a relationship with God, they need to figure out who they are and what their need for God is. They can’t do this unless they are allowed to make mistakes.

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