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We asked Iona Monk, a registered clinical counsellor, couple therapist and the founder of Vancouver Couples Counselling, to provide some expert tips on how best to show your mother you love her -- and ideally improve your relationship in the process.
1. Ask your mother what she needs and wants
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to show your mom you care is to just come out and ask her how you can show your appreciation.
"Too many of us make assumptions about what others need or want, and when the person does not seem appreciative after the act, we can feel hurt and they can feel misunderstood and unseen," explains Monk.
It's always best to communicate with your mom and ask first. You may think you know what your mom needs, such as a day at an expensive salon or a new piece of jewelry, when really all she wants is something simple, such as a home-cooked meal, some help with the yard work or just some one-on-one time with her daughter.
"Not making the assumption that you already know what she appreciates is the first act of appreciation. Let your mom have a voice," says Monk.
2. Give your mother a day off
If your mom is stressed out, give her a day off from some of her responsibilities. Being a parent can be stressful even after children have grown up and left home. Your mom's old parental responsibilities have likely been replaced with other stressors, such as taking care of older family members. Busy and stressed moms will often tell you not to get them anything when they are asked if there is anything you can do for them on Mother's Day.
"It's so frustrating to see someone in a stressful situation and not know how to help them, especially when you know they need the help," says Monk. She suggests looking for non-material ways to help relieve some of your mom's workload. "If she is very busy caring for others, perhaps older family members, it might be nice to offer to take over once in a while so she doesn't feel like the responsibility is solely on her shoulders," suggests Monk.
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3. Communicate with your mother
Many of us have less than perfect relationships with our mothers, especially when it comes to communication. "It's a universal issue," Monk stresses. Improving the way you communicate with your mom is a good way to show her that you care and want to make the best of the time that you share together. If you struggle with communication, refrain from having high expectations for talks about difficult issues such as money, family and career, Monk advises. And be sure to listen to your mom and what she has to say, and to acknowledge her contributions to the conversation.
Monk is also careful to acknowledge that mother-daughter relationships are inherently complicated. "No one can trigger us like our mother. It is such a close and fraught relationship at times," she says. Although it may seem futile, making an effort to improve communication with your mom shows her that you care about your relationship.
4. Let your mother be who she is
It's easy to mistake "caring" for your mom with wanting to change and improve her, especially if your relationship is challenging to begin with. However, Monk says that it's important to accept your mother for who she is.
"Focus on what is right about her instead of what is wrong," she advises. When listening to your mom, try to see things from her perspective. "Moms have a tough job and are not always equipped to do it well, especially if they have come from a difficult family of origin themselves and have not sought help from a professional."
Make sure your mom knows you care by showing her respect and appreciating her for who she is -- imperfections and all.
Not every gift needs to come from a store. This year, dig deeper to show your mom how much she means to you. Through improved communication and thoughtful behaviour and by being patient and kind, you can show your love and help strengthen your bond with the woman who raised you.
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