Dear Bracha,

My daughter has gone to stay with her grandparents after another row between us. She is 16 and I am a non-supported single parent. Our relationship has been fraught, to say the least, over the years and I have said very hurtful things to her. I tried to use my parents, with whom she is now staying, for support, but regrettably, that has become a conflict as they have not helped regularly with both her and my own emotional care. My daughter now says she has had enough and wants to stay there until she is 18. I am distraught, as she is all I have worked for. What can I do now to repair the relationship? She says she never wants to live with me again.

Single Parent

Dear Single Parent,

Your situation is by no means unique. It is very common for mothers and daughters to become like fire and water; it seems that they just don't "mix." There are many reasons for this; the first is that many mothers see their daughters going through life very similarly to themselves. Their daughters are so similar, in fact, that they have the same bad habits, make the same excuses and mistakes as their mothers did. It's like "déjà vu" for Mom and drives her absolutely mad as she attempts to prevent her daughter from making these "same" mistakes. It drives the daughters absolutely mad as they have their mothers constantly on their back and can't get away with anything.

The second reason for this happening is that mothers love their children. Mom sees her daughter making mistakes and tries to correct her because she doesn't want to see her daughter hurt. But there is no plan and Mom ends up correcting her constantly, giving her no peace, and friction results. This is one of the proofs that you can love your child too much.

One of the basic reasons that this happened between you and your daughter is that everyone needs a place to call home. A place where you can put your feet up on the table and just relax. Maybe you were are on your daughter's case so much that she just couldn't relax, had no downtime, no peace, no rejuvenation from her day. You needed to pick your battles and turn a blind eye to the rest; you needed balance.

I am sure there were many things that led to the current situation you are now experiencing, but what you're really asking is: how do I rebuild my relationship with my daughter?

I see the fact that your daughter is in a safe place with your parents as positive. She is safe and well cared for and that is so huge! This also gives you time to take a step back and get yourself under control. There can be many additional factors that place pressure on parents and many missed opportunities for people to help, but at the end of the day we parents are responsible for what comes out of our mouths and how we treat others. It is unfortunate, maybe even tragic, that your parents were not more supportive, and the pressures on you as a single parent were difficult. But when you were talking with your daughter, there was only one adult in the room and it was your obligation to keep the situation under control.

Having said that, no one can push a mother's buttons like a daughter… fire and water.

Your daughter's time with your parents is her time to heal and grow. It is also your time to do the same. First, you have to heal. To heal, you have to forgive. You have to fully and emotionally forgive your parents, your daughter and yourself. Let go of all the pain and what ifs and maybes. The only reason for remembering the past is to learn from it. Many times a relationship benefits a great deal from a little physical distance. Now you are not in each other's faces. Your daughter no longer has to worry about whether another fight will start at any moment. Give her time to let the pain drop away.

Give her time to remember how much she loves you, because she does love you - very much.

Never think that your efforts were in vain. The best parts of you are in your daughter and they will show themselves. You may need to get someone to talk to, to help you get over your own pain so that you can build a strong and happy relationship with your daughter. I suggest you keep your contact with your daughter firmly focused on positive things. Resist all inclinations to instruct or comment other than in a supportive way, unless absolutely necessary. If conversation with your daughter is like a minefield, you had better have a good road map, or you risk an explosion. Don't tell her what to do. If you feel she should be taking more care in some of her decisions, ask her questions about how she feels about the situation or perhaps some "what if" scenarios. The idea is to get her to think about the situation and come up with her own plan. If she doesn't realize you're guiding her to the decision, then you have done a superb job!

As long as your daughter is happy at your parents and making positive progress, you should let her stay there. I have frequently counseled mothers in similar situations to allow their daughters to go to schools out of town. The breathing room has the added benefit of removing mother as a crutch. Perversely, many poor habits cannot be broken in the family home where it is too easy to slide back into the old way of doing things. Children can more easily see their own responsibilities when there is no one around to pick up after them.

Take care of yourself, and work on getting your tongue under control. No matter how many times your daughter pushes your buttons, from now on she will find she does not have the code to set you off.

Most importantly, remember that your daughter was in emotional pain, but it only hurts when you care for someone. She cares, and you care and that is the basis of a really great relationship. Wishing you and your family all the best.

– Bracha