Raising Confident Girls: How The Mother-Daughter Relationship Affects Our Daughters’ Sexuality, Confidence and Identity
For any mother who is raising a daughter, there’s a hope that a healthy mother-daughter relationship will inspire our daughters to thrive, with confidence, as a girl and future woman. With increased research, we are learning that this confidence is directly related to how our daughters understand and embrace their sexuality throughout the life cycle. From day one, it is the mother who awakens the libidinal potential, our ability to love, in all of us. A unique intimacy develops between the mother-daughter pair that is assimilated over time it into the daughter’s sense of self, as to what it means to be a woman. A girl learns who she is by the ways in which she can bond to and identify with her mother.
The mind-body connection integral to the development of becoming our true selves has its beginnings in all of the wonderful, everyday interactions between mother and daughter. During infancy and early childhood as a mother holds, protects, rocks, feeds, cleans, bathes, dresses, soothes and cares for her young daughter, a profound connection is developed and sustained within the child’s body. The girl’s hard-wired libidinal potential is set in motion familiarizing the child with its bodily landscape.
If a mother is inhibited about or worse ashamed of her own sexuality then her ability to connect with her daughter physically, emotionally or intimately can become stunted and her daughter may grow up feeling disconnected from her own body and sexuality as well. On the other hand, women whose mothers are able to develop and maintain a positive connection to them throughout their sexual development are more likely to internalize and enjoy a healthy perspective of their sexuality and most importantly integrate it into their own relationships with their future children.
Despite these findings, barriers and questions persist for many women inhibiting them from talking straight to their daughters. What makes it so hard for mothers to communicate with their daughters about sexuality? The answer is that it’s emotional. We were all girls once and every mother was once a daughter. Part of the struggle and difficulties for some women to share their own experience with their daughters is the unresolved conflicts within their relationships with their own mothers. This intergenerational passing on of a negative view of our sexual potentials as women has implications on how we raise our daughters.
When a girl can discuss her sexuality in a trustworthy context where boundaries are respected with her mother she can truly feel comfortable with her own sexual development and sexuality. When a girl feels safe to express her individuality and curiosity, to say when she is ready to share or not, her true, confident and unique self emerges. It is then that the overall message communicated to our daughters is a sense of pride in the female body – our collective bodies – because it holds generative value and sexual potential.
By continuing to engage what we know about those first moments of nurturing and caring for our infant daughters throughout the years, mothers can simply communicate that sexual development is a normative process that we all go through. The love, affection, and touch mothers give to their daughters in early life continues, becoming verbalized and spoken about within the mother-daughter dyad as she makes her way from infant, toddler, pre-adolescent, adolescent, young woman and a mature adult woman. Ultimately, a girl’s self-confidence is inextricably linked to the inherent need to relate to and identify with a mother who has pride in her body, femininity and sexuality. It is never too late to start the conversation.