There are certain lessons only a mother can teach. A grandmother may not be as relatable, and a sister may not have enough wisdom — which is why it’s up to Mom to initiate a heart-to-heart about matters of the heart.
Although it can be a difficult subject to broach, your greatest gift to your daughter might just be the knowledge to face tough times and come out stronger. Here are the most important things young women need to know about love — and how to explain them.
1. You are enough.
“If ever there were a message daughters need to hear from their moms, it’s this,” says self-esteem and confidence guru Jess Weiner, author of Life Doesn’t Begin Five Pounds From Now. “Believing you are enough means remembering that nothing in you needs to change to be loved.” Teach your daughter that anyone who tries to convince her otherwise isn’t right for her, and someone who doesn’t see her worth hasn’t earned a place in her life.
2. You can’t get respect unless you give it first.
And that goes for not just significant others but also friends and family. “You must model the respect you seek in a partner,” Weiner says. “When you care for your body — feed it well, rest it well, treat it well — then you will more naturally be drawn to someone who will do the same.”
3. Don’t lose yourself in a relationship.
Falling in love can cause a woman to fall out of sync with who she is without her other half. “Don’t let your own insecurity or your relationship stop you from living the life you deserve,” says Weiner. Remind your daughter to keep her interests, friends, and alone time. She needs them all to lead a happy life and continue to feel fulfilled — whether or not the relationship lasts. “There’s plenty of room for self-love and romantic love,” adds Weiner.
4. Your body deserves pleasure.
If you don’t teach this, who will? “Moms don’t talk about this enough,” says Weiner. “Our bodies aren’t just objects to be pursued and desired by our partners. They are ours to enjoy, explore, and feel experiences fully.” Talking positively about sex doesn’t encourage promiscuity like silence can, Weiner explains. So when her body begins to change, remind her that she deserves safe, pleasurable experiences when she’s ready. “It puts her in the driver’s seat,” says Weiner.
5. Listen closely to potential and current partners.
Remaining perceptive can save her heartache. If the guy she’s interested in says he isn’t looking for a girlfriend, tell her to believe him. If he snaps at his mother, she should take note. “If you notice a person being unkind to someone else, don’t fool yourself into thinking it will be different with you,” says Weiner. Often, people show and tell everything you need to know. Remind her not to trick herself into believing she knows “what he really means” instead.
6. Enter and stay in a relationship for the right reasons.
Mothers must teach their daughters true love is about affection, selflessness, and generosity. If those qualities aren’t there, neither should she be. “Loneliness, reenacting the past, outside pressure, or shared friends aren’t reasons to stay with someone,” says marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein. “Don’t wait until your daughter is in a crisis to give this advice.” Help her learn how to recognize signs she shouldn’t stay with someone before she has to make that decision.
7. Know what you want and stay true to that.
Sometimes relationships look right on the surface, but feel wrong deep down. Maybe she’s not getting out of it what she’s putting in, or she simply feels something’s missing. Tell her to understand her wants and convey them, so she can fix issues or move on. “She must have a strong sense of self, not try to be what the other person wants her to be,” Goldstein says.
8. Recognize heartbreak’s benefits.
Your daughter will never need your advice, and shoulder, more than when she’s brokenhearted. Remind her that it’s okay to feel pain, but a breakup can be a lesson in itself. “Nothing teaches a woman more about herself than losing love,” says Jaime Morrison Curtis, author of Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter, A Life List for Every Woman. “How she handles her first breakup will shape her future relationships in a profound way. She will learn what she’s willing to accept, what she really needs, and when and how to let go.”