Dear Dr. Archer,
I’m a mom, and have an adult daughter who has been distant from me for years. She's always been this way, but I'd really like a closer relationship with her and the grandchildren.
Her husband is always very good and very nice. This daughter ran away often when she was young, but I raised another daughter without incident.
Obviously I'm not going to be closer to her, but how should I handle it? Should I just be nice whenever she does call? Thank you so much.
All mother/daughter relationships consists of both positive and negative feelings, especially during the formative years. Let's face it -- some teens are much more difficult to raise than others.
By all means, Cnris, any time she calls, be nice, nice, nice. Ask how the children are and invite them over. In fact, make sure she knows your door is always open to her and her family.
Let her know you think her husband is nice. Kill her with kindness every chance you get. You never know, she could be embarrassed and ashamed by what she did in her early years and doesn't know how to handle it.
Let your daughter know you enjoy her company and would love to be closer to her and the children. It's never, ever too late to turn things around as long as there's breath in each of you.
All that being said, you don’t want to overdo it. So make it a point to say something nice on every phone call and/or meeting, but also, have a list of ‘safe’ topics ready to discuss. It’s a fine line, letting her know how you feel and that you care, without smothering her.
All you can do is your part and it may take a while, but in cases like this, if you can keep your cool and not stoop to accusations and anger, you will usually be rewarded. I wish you the best.