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Mending Moves: Fresh Starts for Mothers and Daughters

My cousin doesn’t speak to her mother. It exploded the eve of my uncle’s funeral, when my cousin attended her husband’s singing engagement at a nightclub. Her mother’s needs were not attended. More than a dozen years have passed since.

A lovely friend rents a home from her parents. She’s a great cat lover, but her mom doesn’t want animals on the property. The woman doesn’t want to “rock the boat.”

Another pal has a warm relationship with her mom, although she knows well her mother’s shortcomings. Despite this, she can’t seem to help herself from repeating parenting blunders with her teen-ager. She sometimes feels it’s like “flying blind.”

I was not raised by my mother. A multitude of mistakes already has been committed in the mothering of my own young daughter. Where does one go from here?

Those looking for positive endings to these and their own stories will find help in “Mending the Broken Bough: Restoring the Promise of the Mother- Daughter Relationship” (Berkley/Penguin Puttnam; 1998), by Barbara Zax, Ph.D. and Stephan Poulter, Ph.D.

The doctors are in.

“Mending the Broken Bough” is unlike what’s out there in women’s magazines, in parenting magazines or in single volumes of self-help. It doesn’t just tackle anger, anxiety, depression, self-image or sexuality; the book takes on these topics and more expansive ones.

Early chapters explore the concept of attachment; the development of self- image nurtured or hindered by various mothering styles; the ways families interact productively or disengage communication and the multigenerational evolution of family life.

Later chapters are devoted to the “rules” passed from mother to daughter; the concepts of separation and independence; the “stumbling blocks” that seem to prevent resolution and lastly, reconciliation.

The first-time authors conducted nearly seven years of research to compile the book; it’s little wonder the result is comprehensive. Case histories examine minor and major conflicts underlying relationships. Those with no psychology background as well as those who’ve experienced psychotherapy benefit from insights into feelings of abandonment, envy, deficiency and guilt.

The guide is well laid out. Its subheadings, bullets, charts and lists make for an easy read. Perhaps its best feature is “Mending Moves.” Short, practical suggestions on how to strengthen the mother-daughter bond appear throughout.

Men, too, can get a clue. The book is for husbands who grab the golf clubs every time their mothers-in-law visit. It’s for the boyfriend who says, “See ya” when his girlfriend suggests he join her for dinner at Mom’s. It’s for the dad who thinks his mother-in-law is whacked, his wife is nuts and their daughter is just as goofy.

“Every woman is a daughter,” says Poulter. “Every daughter has a mother and has to reconcile with that mother both internally and externally. The cycle of blaming and mother-bashing is nonproductive.

“As men, the better we understand that’s it all connected, the more we can become better sons, husbands, fathers and grandfathers.”

Parent Education at Point Dume Marine Science school presents marriage and family therapist Barbara Zax and clinical psychologist Stephan Poulter Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.; 6955 Fernhill Dr. Childcare by reservation, $5 per. For reservations and book orders, call Wendy Hecht: 457-0400.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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