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Communication: The Moving Target in the Caribbean-American Mother-Daughter Relationship

by Ann Dillard, LMFT

In the intricate world of mother-daughter relationships, communication is a ballet that becomes even more intricate in Caribbean-American bonds. Melded by the nuances of Caribbean traditions and framed within American contexts, these relationships are often marked by a continually shifting communicative dynamic. As a result, daughters may often feel they're trying to hit a moving target, always adjusting, always aiming, but rarely feeling like they've genuinely connected or "won."

The Unceasing Quest for Approval:

Many Caribbean-American daughters are born with an innate desire to please, adhere to familial traditions, and respect the wishes and beliefs passed down through generations. As these daughters grow and evolve, influenced by American culture, they strive to balance their heritage with their personal aspirations. They might work endlessly to say the right things, act appropriately, and make choices they believe will garner approval. But frequently, they feel they're chasing a constantly moving goal, leading to a sensation of always falling short.

Silent Tensions and the Communication Disconnect:

While a daughter aims to voice her feelings or opinions, the age-old Caribbean value of reserved emotional expression can loom large. Rather than open dialogues, suppressed feelings or silent treatments may dominate. This leaves the daughter in a perpetual state of unease, trying to decipher unspoken sentiments and wondering if she's ever genuinely heard.

The Generational Chasm:

The pressures and challenges a Caribbean-American daughter faces are often multifaceted, colored by her cultural background and American upbringing. Striving to gain understanding or empathy from her mother, she might adjust her communication approach continuously. However, the generational and cultural gap can sometimes make these attempts seem in vain, leaving her feeling misunderstood.

Navigating the Shifting Sands:

With changing times and evolving societal norms, what might have been the "right thing" a decade ago can differ significantly today. Daughters often feel they're navigating a labyrinth of shifting expectations, trying to keep up and stay aligned. Yet, the sensation of always being on the back foot, constantly trying to catch up to ever-changing targets, can be emotionally taxing.

In Conclusion:

The journey of understanding and effective communication between Caribbean-American mothers and daughters is layered, complex, and constantly evolving. While the path might seem winding and elusive, recognizing the moving targets is the first step in cultivating deeper understanding and mutual respect.

Daughters may often feel they're at a disadvantage, always trying to catch up. However, by acknowledging these challenges, seeking open dialogues, and understanding the roots of these dynamics, both mothers and daughters can move toward a relationship where both feel seen, heard, and valued.

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