Whether you act like sisters or sparring partners, you can improve your connection.
The Relationship: Best Friends
You have the kind of “favorite dinner date,” “first on speed dial” relationship that others envy.
Why it’s good: Operating on a level playing field reflects self-confidence on the part of both mother and daughter. “In terms of healthy communication, having this kind of relationship is a big positive,” says Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the author of You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation ($16, amazon.com).
Why it’s challenging: Sometimes a daughter needs a parent, not a partner in crime. Studies have confirmed what a lot of women know: When daughters face big life changes, such as becoming parents themselves, they rely on their moms to be experienced advisers, not buddies. This dynamic can be tough for moms, too. They can feel hurt, for instance, when daughters rail at them because they’re slow to master new technology. “Moms who see their daughters as friends expect them to think as though they came out of the same generation,” says Gail Saltz, M.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, in New York City.
Improving relations: Both parties need to respect their true roles. “It’s important to acknowledge the generation gap,” says Saltz. In other words, act your age. Dads depend on that, too. For example, it’s normal for a daughter to tell her mom her relationship problems, but when a mother divulges hers, it compromises the daughter’s relationship with her father.