6 Ways To Be The Best Daughter Ever
Updated March 17, 2020
Parents are important figures in our lives. We grow up and learn things based on their world view. We apply their life lessons to our own lives sometimes. And we confide in them when we need a second opinion. Having a good relationship with your parents comes with a lot of benefits.
For kids, having parents who play an active role in their life are more likely to do well in school. They're also more likely to grow up with better social skills, higher self-esteem, more confidence in romantic relationships, more likelihood of graduating and going to college. Even for adults, having a good relationship with your parents can have a positive effect on your life.
There are also benefits for parents who have good relationships with their children. A 2003 study found that having a good relationship with their adult children is positive for a parent's well-being. The opposite is also true. If the relationship is strained or worse than the parent expected, it has negative effects on well-being. The study also found that for both parents and their children, changes in well-being affect each other throughout life.
So the relationships you have with your parents will have an impact on both of you for the rest of your lives. Whether you're a young adult still living with your parents or you have older parents and possibly a family of your own, it's important to maintain and relationship with your parents. The benefits go both ways.
So how can you be the best daughter ever to your parents? Here are six suggestions.
Celebrate Important Dates
As a child, it's up to your parents to remember your birthday and other meaningful events. They may have come to dance recitals or soccer practices. It's likely that they still remember to celebrate your accomplishments and important dates. It's important to do the same for them.
Here are a few holidays to put into your calendar:
- Mother's Day
- Father's Day
- Holiday Celebrations
Depending on your situation, you might also want to get in touch with your parents on other meaningful dates. Unfortunately, not all dates will be happy ones. If someone close to one of your parents was recently deceased (such as a sibling, partner, friend), then you might want to call them or see them on the anniversary of the death. Those dates often hold meaning and can be hard on living relatives.
See Them As Often As You Can
It's great to prioritize seeing your parents on holidays and special occasions, but the more you can see your parents, the better. This can be trickier if your parents are separated or if they live far away, but do your best for your circumstances. If you live close to your parents, that will mean you have more opportunities to spend time with them.
Time together is more valuable when you become an adult. After graduating high school, on average, you've already spent 90% of the time you'll get to spend with your parents before their death. That's a sobering statistic. And as mentioned earlier, your involvement in your parents' lives is good for their well-being.
It could be as simple as trying to get together every week or two for dinner. You can also call them a few times a week if they live far away. Phone calls and text messages can't replace in-person interactions, but they can help bridge the gap between the times you see each other.
Lastly, don't wait. There are no guarantees on how long your parents will be around. And they might feel like they're bothering you if they're the ones instigating conversations all the time. Take the initiative and be the one to make the first move. They'll be delighted to be a big part of your life.
Start Difficult Conversations
Let's be honest. Most people don't want to talk about death or money. Yet, these conversations are valuable to have while your parents are still healthy. There are certain preferences your parents will have that you may not be aware of. Once they're terminally ill or gone, it can be a lot of pressure to try to decipher what they may have wanted.
Ask them questions like:
- Would you rather be cremated or buried?
- Would you rather pass away at home or in a hospital?
- Would you be opposed or willing to live in a nursing home?
- Do you have a will?
- Any requests for how we should conduct your funeral?
These questions are awkward and uncomfortable. There's no doubt about it. But they're necessary things to know. If one of your parents doesn't want to live in a nursing home if they can no longer take care of themselves, what is the plan? Will someone hire a nurse to visit their home? Will they have to live with you? Who will pay for a nursing home or visiting nurse?
End of life is stressful for everyone, but by knowing the answers to at least most of these questions, it will make those times somewhat easier. You can also ask the questions in a roundabout way to make it less uncomfortable. For example, you could bring up the questions about another relative: "Do you think Great Aunt Mary will live in her house forever or move to a nursing home?" This gets the conversation going, and by adding your own opinions, you might get them to share theirs as well.
Even if your parents aren't nearing old age yet, it's a good idea to talk about these things and keep a record of the answers. They could change over time, but the topic won't be as sensitive if they're healthy. These conversations are hard for everyone. It forces us to face our mortality. Being able to give your parents their wishes (or at least some of them) will help them feel more relaxed throughout the process, which will help you feel more relaxed too. And you won't be forced to make as many decisions during the difficult transition of aging parents.
The last tip about having tough conversations is even harder if conversations, in general, are already awkward with your parents. Whether you're a family of few words or you won't touch deep conversation with a ten-foot pole, here are a few tips to get everyone talking freely.
- Talk over board games
Playing a board game or watching a TV show together can get everyone in a looser mood. The stakes aren't as high, and it puts everyone in a better mood. If you choose to watch a show together, keep the lights on so you can look at each other. It'll also make it clear that conversation is encouraged. For bonus points, pick a show or board game that encourages you to talk about moral or philosophical dilemmas.
- Remember fond childhood memories together
Parenthood is stressful, so it can be reassuring to hear that your children grew up happy. It's also a good way to lighten the mood or fill the awkward silences. Everyone remembers things differently, too, so you might bring up a story that they didn't remember. Moments of shared experiences are really powerful for connection.
- Bring notes
This one is for the people who freeze up the second they're around one of their parents. Perhaps you have a really good relationship with your mom, but you feel like your dad doesn't understand you as well. It's okay to prepare a few questions to ask him ahead of time. He never has to know.
- Set boundaries
Parents aren't perfect, so that they will have their weaknesses. They might have old habits of fighting dirty, or they always say something hurtful when it comes to a certain aspect of your life. Whatever it is, you can set a boundary around it to avoid eroding the relationship. For example, if you always fight about politics, you can set ground rules for how those discussions will go or choose not to talk about them at all.
Be Your Authentic Self
Every parent goes into parenthood with expectations for their children, even if they don't mean to. They might hope you continue the family business or stay connected to their religion. As tempting as it is to be the person your parents want you to be, that does a disservice to everyone.
When you're thriving and living your best life, they'll be proud that they played a part in your blossoming. It might take time for them to understand where you're coming from, but all wounds heal with time.
As surprising as it sounds, taking care of yourself in all facets of your life - including relationships - is a great way to be the best daughter ever. Sometimes it's hard, especially if you feel like your parents don't understand you. But if you're happier, they'll be happier too. This is easier said than done, so if you want extra support while your confidence grows, you can get the support of a licensed therapist or support group to boost you along.
If you're making life changes that your parents don't understand, do your best to have those conversations from a place of love. This is where having an outside support system can be helpful. Understand that they want what's best for you. Even if what they want for you don't line up with what you want, their intentions are good. And by showing them how happy you are, they may not understand your choices, but they'll recognize the positive outcome of those choices and how valuable that is.
Encourage Them To Chase Their Dreams
Everyone has dreams. For some parents, having children meant giving up their dreams. Maybe they were in a band and decided to stop playing music so they could spend more time with their family. Or they were a mom pursuing her career, and she dropped out of college to take care of her kids. Or maybe they never pursued their dreams at all.
No one is ever too old to chase a dream. Encouraging your parents to live their best lives will be meaningful for both of you. It's a unique experience for parents to be supported by their children. And there's a good chance you know your parents better than most people. You've probably spent more time around them than anyone else.
Brené Brown, Ph.D. says that being creative is a cornerstone of being a wholehearted person. The problem is that most people have creativity scars. It could be from classmates, teachers, parents, or friends. One example Dr. Brown gives is a teacher saying you shouldn't promote drawing because art isn't your strong point. As horrifying as that sounds, it's a common wound.
You may even have wounds of your own around creativity. It could have been your parents who caused the wound. Often, we judge people based on things we're insecure about ourselves. So if your parents hurt you about creativity, chances are, they were hurt by someone else. By showing your support to them, you can show them that creative wounds don't have to stop you.
You know your parents better than anyone. Trust your instincts on how you can continue to build a relationship with them. You don't always have to try to be the best daughter ever. Sometimes simply being more involved in their life is enough.