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Boundaries in Caribbean-American Mother-Daughter Relationships

By Ann Dillard, LMFT

The Caribbean-American mother-daughter relationship is a rich tapestry woven from diverse cultural, social, and familial threads. One issue that often arises in this unique bond is mothers' difficulty seeing their daughters as independent adults. The challenge of establishing boundaries becomes crucial, especially when daughters have their own set of likes, desires, values, and beliefs that may differ from their mothers'.


Perceived Eternal Childhood

In many Caribbean-American families, the parent-child dynamic often extends into adulthood, making it difficult for mothers to recognize their daughters as self-sufficient adults. The notion of "once my child, always my child" can undermine the adult daughter's need for autonomy and personal space.

Cultural Expectations

In Caribbean culture, respect for authority figures, particularly parents, is highly emphasized. This can lead to an imbalance where the daughter's voice and boundaries are not fully acknowledged or respected. This is exacerbated by the cultural belief that "mother knows best," giving the mother an overarching role in her daughter's life, irrespective of her age.

Fear of Disrespect

Establishing boundaries often involves saying "no," which Caribbean mothers may perceive as a form of disrespect or defiance. This emotional hurdle can create tension and deter open communication.


Fostering Emotional Well-being

Clearly established boundaries are essential for the emotional well-being of both mother and daughter. The daughter feels respected and validated, while the mother learns to navigate her role in her adult daughter's life.

Encouraging Individuality

Recognizing and respecting boundaries can serve as a catalyst for individual growth. Daughters will feel more empowered to explore their unique likes, values, and beliefs, which can lead to richer, more fulfilling lives for both mother and daughter.

Strengthening the Relationship

Healthy boundaries often lead to healthier relationships. Both parties understand their roles, expectations are clarified, and there is mutual respect for each other's individuality and choices.

While establishing boundaries in Caribbean-American mother-daughter relationships comes with its unique set of challenges, the benefits are invaluable. The key to overcoming these hurdles lies in open communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to adapt. By taking these steps, mothers and daughters can build a more balanced, respectful, and loving relationship that honors their shared heritage and individuality.

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