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By all means, take mom to brunch or give her a token of your appreciation on May 13. But soggy pancakes or a wilted bouquet may seem a bit hollow and empty if you and your mom don't really hang out or talk much the other 364 days a year.

Maybe what would really make mom happy on Mother's Day is a pledge that you'll share more with each other throughout the year. Here are 5 ways to bridge that generation gap:

  1. Plan daily or weekly get-togethers. These could be anything from a weekly walk or hike to signing up for an organization like Meals on Wheels. (Volunteering is a great way for both of you to maximize the feel-good factor by helping the community.) Pick activities you know you can both enjoy, and try to choose things that give you something to discuss or allow you to talk if you want to. If you're not quite ready to spend some alone time with your mom, start out by including another family member or a friend in the mix. Or plan an activity where you know other people will be. Just the fact that you're reaching out and planning time together makes it special.
  2. Help mom feel in touch with your life. You don't have to share all the juicy details. But talking about what's going on with school, friends, and extracurriculars helps mom feel connected to you — and confident of the trust she places in you. It reassures her that you're making good decisions when you tell her stuff like, "They found alcohol in this kid's locker today and we're all asking why someone would be so stupid as to drink underage." Or, "Devon wasn't practicing so we had to ask him to quit band; it was really tough." Plus, when you're offering information yourself instead of having mom ask, it won't feel like she's grilling you. You can also bring your friends by to meet her. Putting faces to names can help put a parent's mind at ease. You never know — getting to know your friends could lead to your mom giving you more freedoms.
  3. Ask what's going on in her life. Your mom's stories about her job or friends may seem like they come from another planet. But look at them as "work experience" for when you have to deal with the same situations. Ask your mom to open up about the tough stuff that she goes through. If she's asking you about yours, it's only fair for her to have to spill the beans too!
  4. Talk about your values. It can be awkward to discuss the tough stuff when it relates directly to you — but it's a lot easier to talk about general ideas. To connect more with your mom, talk about your beliefs on big issues, like prejudice and discrimination, materialism, war, poverty, love, the environment, and countless other things happening in the world every day.
  5. Don't get mad, stay even (even tempered, that is!). Of course there will be times when you guys don't agree. The key is to do it with respect. Instead of letting disagreements disintegrate into shouting matches, try to keep your cool and rationalize or make compromises. It's not always easy, but it's the best way to earn respect — and you're more likely to come out of it with something you want. If tempers do flare out of control, show mom you're big enough to apologize and tell her what you learned from the experience.

The expectations for a perfect Mother's Day can be unrealistically high — but there's no need to feel pressure. The best days for mom are probably the days you surprise her with the unexpected.

So don't let the love end with Mother's Day. Pick a time when you know she's busy and try a little role reversal: Make your mom breakfast, put an "I love you" note in her lunchbag, give her milk and cookies when she gets home from work (or you get home from school), and make dinner for the family.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: May 2007