Parents often find that the relationships with their children become challenging as adolescence ensues. Control issues surface as the adolescent processes of separating and individuating, in support of forming identity, kick into full swing. Parents quickly come to realize that peer friendships take on greater significance and communication with their tween/teen can turn south. One way parents can remain connected to, guide and nurture their child, and encourage the channels of communication to remain open is to participate in mother-daughter book clubs. (Dads, you can do this too.)
I first came across the concept of the mother-daughter book club a few years ago when I read Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs by Cindy Hudson. An avid reader, I was excited about using mother-daughter book clubs as a tool, a way to stay connected with my girls. I understood that reading and discussing books could (and does) help with those connections by providing a safe environment in which to discuss current, complex, germane, and sensitive issues within the context of discussing the book. Cindy shared the following with me when I asked her how mother-daughter book clubs benefit girls, mothers, and their relationships with one another.
“I could talk all day about this, because moms and daughters both benefit in so many ways. But here are a few of the most important benefits:
- When you’re in a mother-daughter book club together you carve out time just for the two of you with no siblings or spouse/other parent to focus on. You’re saying to your daughter that she’s important enough for you to set aside time for her alone.
- Books give you an entrée to talk about important issues in life. It’s an excellent way to let your daughter know your values and beliefs without seeming to preach specifically to her. And it lets you bring up topics that may otherwise be difficult or embarrassing to talk about, like having sex with a boyfriend, drinking alcohol at parties, date rape…the list of topics goes on and on. Of course, you won’t start out with heavy issues like these when she’s nine. Instead you’ll grow into them as she grows older.
- Sharing your opinions in a mother-daughter book club discussion can also help both of you hone your speaking skills. It’s a safe place to practice forming your opinion, learning how to articulate it well, and defending what you believe when others disagree. You can also learn how to be swayed when others present a convincing argument of their own thoughts. Those are life skills that most of us can practice no matter our age.”
Cindy also believes, as I do, that the benefits of a mother-daughter book club include the following:
- Enhancing your daughter’s reading skills
- Nurturing your daughter’s self-confidence
- Helping your daughter learn life-skills
- Spending social time with other moms/girls
- Building a community of caring friends
Book by Book is a terrific resource, providing meticulous outlines, examinations, participant quotes, and expert advice for such considerations as your daughter’s age, the right size of the book club, who to invite, meeting venues and calendar, meeting ideas, choosing books, and managing discussions. Cindy offers ideas and concrete examples of how to tie books and themes to field trips, author meetings and other extracurricular and rewarding activities are. The last section of the book deals with book club challenges—touchy subjects, conflict with members, leaving or new members, and restructuring (with a sample survey for current members). Three appendices, offering resources for where to find books on the web, book suggestions – with brief synopses, and tried-and-true recipes from mother-daughter members, are included. Cindy’s website offers up-to-date reviews, author interviews, reading lists, and book club planning tools.
Parents: So what do you think? Adolescence will happen. Issues will come up. Do you think you might form or participate in a mother-daughter as a tool to stay connected to and support your child?