Q: I have been having really frustrating conversations lately with my adult daughter. She seems more angry with me and unwilling to listen and accept my advice. I see her and her boyfriend making some mistakes that my husband and I could prevent if she’d listen. Whenever I make suggestions, she gets kind of rude, telling me she already knows what I’m going to say or that they’ve made decisions that don’t involve us. I feel like I’ve been fired by my daughter. I have so much more experience than she does, and she’s always been too strong willed and unwilling to accept any advice. I’d hate to see them make mistakes we could have prevented when they’re just starting out. I need some help as to how I can make her be more open to suggestions and advice. Why does she want to repeat our mistakes?

A: I can appreciate this is challenging and truly frustrating for you. Your relationship with your daughter was likely easier when she was younger; while she was living at home or while she was still single, she may have deferred more to you for guidance and support. Now that she’s an adult with a partner, I suspect whatever important decisions need to be made she has discussed with him. While you believe she’s making “mistakes,” it sounds as if it’s very hard for you to disengage, trusting her to determine what works best for her and her partner.

While we want to communicate effectively with those we love, we can easily overstep important relational boundaries. Learning to respect your daughter’s autonomy may take some time, yet this will certainly have a positive impact on your relationship. I’m certain she doesn’t “want to repeat” your mistakes. If we believe we know what’s best for our grown kids, offering unsolicited advice, we lose an important connection, compromising closeness and understanding. Giving opinions and suggestions without really listening to your daughter’s perspective is creating distance and discomfort. Try considering what your daughter experiences when her feelings are discounted. Unintentionally, we can easily give the message to our children, partners or friends that “your feelings don’t matter,” or “your view of the situation is distorted, or wrong,” or “I’m right, you’re not.” It also communicates: “I don’t trust or value your perspective.” None of these messages builds connection or shows respect.

Everyone wants to be seen, heard and understood. An important difference emerges in the other’s response when we actually listen, hearing the feelings behind the words. If we feel understood, rather than judged or criticized, it’s easier to process our conflicting emotions. Although you admit your daughter and her partner are making mistakes you could easily prevent, practice taking some deep breaths and disengaging (seeing the situation as your daughter’s problem, not yours). Then step into her shoes, imagining how she might feel when her mother violates her personal boundaries. It actually works much better when you first ask for permission to offer suggestions, which communicates respect for her wisdom and choices. An example of what you could say: “I see you and (partner’s name) thoughtfully reaching decisions together. Your father and I faced some of the same challenges when we were first starting out, making lots of mistakes. If you’d like any suggestions, please feel free to ask.” If she and her partner make mistakes along the way, it’s part of their learning curve. Respecting our kids, trusting them to find their own way, is part of the journey. When your daughter feels supported, without judgment or questioning, she will have a clear perspective in reaching her own solutions. She just might want to share more with you, soliciting your ideas and suggestions. It’s entirely possible you can learn from each other!

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” — Pema Chodron

Q: How do you get good self-worth? I really don’t have any. I have so many regrets about how I wish I could have done things differently. I don’t understand why I feel and behave certain ways toward my husband and my kids. I just wish I felt better about myself. I read your column regularly and would appreciate your thoughts.

A: Thank you for this important question. You’re certainly not alone. It sounds challenging to hold yourself in warm, positive, loving regard, despite your imperfections. Self-worth means believing you are good enough just as you are, that you matter. To your question of “how does one get good self-worth,” we must first look beyond our own story to our family legacy — to the many stories and dynamic patterns of our parents, grandparents and beyond. Understanding the weight of inherited trauma is essential to healing. We may believe our childhood was free of trauma, yet even benign neglect can leave childhood wounds. It’s possible your reactions to your husband and children — those feelings and behaviors to which you refer — have deep-rooted origins, unconsciously reinforcing your unhappiness and your many regrets. Your childhood experiences, as well as the legacy from previous generations, may have carried over fear, anxiety and self-doubt within you. These emotions can hold you hostage until you explore and understand the source of those buried triggers. Allow yourself to be curious about the roots of your feelings and behavior, rather than demeaning and harshly judging yourself. Multigenerational family patterns are inherited. Once you identify and intentionally work on breaking the ones that aren’t serving you well and are holding you captive in low self-esteem, you will be on the path to healing. Were you valued as a child? Did you feel protected within your family? Were your feelings validated?

As previously mentioned, healthy self-esteem is the ability to hold yourself warmly and lovingly, regardless of your flaws and regrets. This is at the heart of healing ourselves — the ability to love ourselves despite whatever trauma we may have experienced. Having an internal sense of being “enough” is essential. The bigger the trauma in childhood, the greater the chance of turning that pain against ourselves, keeping us stuck in self-loathing and shame. It’s never too late to do the healing work and to achieve positive change.

“The most powerful ties are the ones to the people who gave us birth … it hardly seems to matter how many years have passed, how many betrayals there may have been, how much misery in the family. We remain connected, even against our wills.” — Anthony Brandt, “Bloodlines”