Teen Concerned About Relationship with Mom

A teenager wants to know how she can improve her relationship with her negative mother.
I'm 16 years old and concerned about my relationship with my mother. I don't feel comfortable telling her things anymore because she only concentrates on the things I've done wrong. For example, if I have good grades in every class except for one, she'll only focus on the bad grade. I'm sure she doesn't like being left in the dark, but her negativity really upsets me and I can't deal with it. She didn't have a very good relationship with her mother and I don't want the same thing to happen to us.

I really want my mom and I to be closer, but I don't know how to approach this. How can I improve our relationship?

You are a very sensitive and wise girl. I certainly understand why you would want your mom to cease focusing only on your disappointments. My guess is that your mom thinks she is being a responsible parent by insisting that all your grades are high. I don't know many people who didn't get a few disappointing grades in school, myself included. But look at the fact that every other grade you received was an A or a B -- that's superb in my book.

So many times our parents raise us like their parents raised them. But when parents know better, they can do better. Your mom's personal life might be very dissatisfying to her and she may be taking out her personal sadness and anger on you. You mom needs to learn how to be a better parent and it's not really your job to teach her. You can, however, share your feelings with her about what you need from her in terms of a close bond and being accepted for who you are. Lots of kids have found it easier to write their feelings in a letter to let their parent know how they feel. Though you may be apprehensive about talking to her, I guarantee you that she doesn't want to have a relationship with you based upon fear.

Do you have another family member or adult friend of the family to whom you could talk about your relationship with your mom? Another adult might be able to sensitively advocate for you with your mom. I'd also like you to consider talking with your school counselor about these problems. Consider saying to your mom: "Mom, I can't stand all the tension in our relationship and I know it must hurt you, too. Could we go see a family therapist so we could get help and become close again? I don't want to be frightened to tell you about my life. I just can't tell you things now because I can't keep taking all the hurt and blame. I feel like you never think I'm good enough. Can we go get help, please?"

I know what I'm asking you takes courage. Write her that letter and ask her about going to a therapist with you. Then write me back, okay?

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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