Episode 194: Hilary Truong's Empowering Approach to Mother-Daughter Relationships in Adolescence

your next stop May 24, 2023

Hilary Truong, a mother-daughter relationship expert and former therapist for teen girls, is a leading voice on keeping mothers and daughters in relationship through the teen years. She is on a mission to rewrite the narrative for mothers and teen daughters and shares her passion by speaking at schools and associations for girls and women and coaching mothers to heal and grow their bond.


You can find Hilary on Instagram, LinkedIn and on her Website.


Remarkable Quote:


“The communication with our daughters and them feeling understood and loved by us as mothers is the most important part.”


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Hello. Welcome back to your next stop. This is Juliet Hahn. In this episode, I interview Hilary Truong. She is a mother daughter relationship expert.

She was also a family therapist that then focused on the mother daughter teen girl area and then moved into coaching and speaking and just doing some really amazing things in this space. I loved this conversation. You guys know I have a teenage daughter, and what Hilary is doing, I think is so powerful and really needed. You guys can find Hilary on IG at Hilarymay and that's M-A-E co C O. So, Hilarymayco, you could also find her on her website, which is Hilarymay.com.

She has some free gifts for you guys. There one of the workshops she has. There's like three chapters that you can kind of dive into and start doing things right away. Really fun things on her website and new things that are coming up all the time. So you definitely want to check that out.

You can also find Hilary on LinkedIn at her name. And her last name is spelled T-R-U-O-N-G. Another episode you do not want to miss. I am a storytelling consultant, and I help small business owners increase sale by being able to establish and articulate your story. What that means is whatever format you're going on to connect, whether you're going on podcast, whether you're in the media circuit, whether you're doing networking events, it's really important to be able to articulate your story so you connect with that audience.

A lot of people leave out really significant parts of their story because they don't think they're important, but really when they are important because that is what's going to connect deeper with an audience. So I really help you get comfortable in your story, taking your personal parts of your story and your business story and really intertwining them so you connect the dots. So when you connect those dots and you're on these platforms articulating your story, you're going to connect deeper with an audience building community. Having that community then be very interested in what you're doing. Whether you're selling services or products, you're going to have someone want to know a little bit more because of the way that you're able to articulate and connect because of your personal and business story.

I give a 30 minutes free discovery call if you want to see if we are the right match, please, you can email me at [email protected].

Welcome back to your next stop. You know, I say this every single time and I'm going to say it again. I'm so excited to bring you someone that has followed a passion. Welcome, Hilary Strong. How are you?

Hi. I'm great. Juliet. Thank you for having me. So Hilary is a mother daughter relationship expert.

You can find her on really all the socials at Hilarymayco, on Instagram Hilarymay.com, and you can find her on LinkedIn at her name. And I'm going to spell the last name since that is a little bit of a tongue twister. And that's T-R-U-O-N-G. So, Hilary, again, welcome to your next stop. And you know that I am excited about this because I have a daughter and we all can need a little help, especially when they're teens, just to kind of learn a little bit about this.

But we're going to start with you giving us a little background of where you kind of grew up and then we'll get into the rest of the story. Yeah, sure. So I grew up in New Jersey in a tiny little farm town. I am a middle sister, I have two sisters. And I feel like I grew up with a lot of mother daughter relationships around me.

And yeah, I was like just a quiet kid doing my own thing. I knew I always wanted to help people. I really had a passion for helping kids specifically, and I either was going to be a teacher or a writer, and I ended up being a school counselor. So there we go, right? Because you did, I mean, you were in your profession, you were a therapist for teen girls before you started your speaking and coaching career.

And so can you take us through that a little bit where you kind of studied and what that looked like? Yeah, sure. So I started out as a school counselor and lost my job and decided, you know what, that dream of opening a private practice when I retire is happening now at 25. So I opened a private practice and I started working with kids and families. And I did that for a long time.

I did that for twelve years and I decided I love working with teen girls, I love supporting them. I felt like I understood them, I could connect with them well. And so I focused my practice entirely on teen girls. And it was there that I saw that breakdown with their mothers over and over. Almost every girl didn't want her mom in the room with her, didn't want her to be part of the conversation.

And that was really my approach as a family therapist, was to involve the parents, transfer my skills to them. So from there, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about the mother daughter relationship because therapists don't learn that in school. And even my women's psychology class did not talk about the mother daughter relationship. And so I had to learn that on my own. And in one of the books that I read, it's called The Mother Daughter Puzzle, I found my mentor, Rashka Hasseldine, and she has founded Mother Daughter Attachment Theory, which really just helped everything fall into place and helped me understand the dynamics of what happens between mothers and daughters.

And then I took that and combined it with my knowledge about teen girls and what they need from their moms and now I teach Moms how to sort of be that woman who's going to show up for a daughter and protect their relationship. So there's nothing they have to repair after the teen years, like many of us have to do? No. It's so fascinating. Do you think that because you were young, as you said, you started when you were 25, that that is what helped connect you?

Or do you feel like it was just something kind of that was really innate? Like the teens were like, okay, I feel like she's not like 65, sitting there talking to me. It's not like a mother figure. This is more of, like someone that's on my kind of same level ish. Maybe it's funny because I think I look younger than I am, and I knew that would work for me one day, but people would always say that.

I think they really thought I was super young, and so maybe I don't know, young at heart, I could connect with them well. But I also really struggled as a teen girl, like many of us do, and I just had the empathy for them that was needed to hear their stories and not dismiss it and help them understand that the way they feel is important. Yeah, I think I just have this empowering approach that they got hooked into. Right. And I love that, and I love that.

And do you feel like there was ever times early on also because you were so young, that the parents weren't as opened and they kind of pushed back a little bit, and you were connecting with the girls, which made that bond a little bit stronger? Yeah, definitely. Parents would dismiss some of the things I would say or ask me directly, are you a parent, really? To kind of get that credibility? And until I became a parent, I just dreaded that question because I'd been trained and I had so much experience and knew what I was doing.

But there is a different level of understanding. Once you are a parent yourself, you kind of get the pressure and all the details that go into it. I don't know if the parents ever felt threatened or disconnected because I connected with their daughter so well. I'm not sure. But there is a theme with parents of teens that it's hard to trust your teenager.

Right. And you don't know what you don't know. And so I sometimes would get lumped in there. What do you know about my teenager that you're not telling me? Because there's also so many boundaries of what a therapist can share and what they can't.

No. And that's so interesting. And it's interesting you came from the perspective of your struggles with your mom, and so even though you weren't a parent at the time, did you kind of pull from that and say, no, I'm not a parent now, but I know what I went through as a teen. So that's what I'm pulling from. Yes, absolutely.

Yeah. And again, the experience of talking to so many teens and I mean, I was supervised. I would meet with another professional to talk about the work that I was doing and the cases that I had and who I was helping. But absolutely, my own personal experience helped as well. That's so interesting.

So after the family practice, if you could take us through and you focusing on the teens, where did that look like? And then when did you make your Pivot? When I was in my therapy practice, it was really around COVID, when we all had to go online and I was already working online a little bit. But having these girls be so isolated and then be on Zoom with me and having sessions, and their mom wasn't as accessible. They weren't in the waiting room anymore, waiting.

The daughter would just log on by herself and be in the session with me alone. It was very disconnected. And I knew I needed that support at home. I needed the mom to know what we're doing and be involved in the session. But it was even harder to get them involved.

So that's when I decided I really wanted to focus on mothers and daughters together and building that relationship. And I say mothers because 95% of the time it was moms bringing daughters to sessions. Right. So I reached out to the parents and said, this is going to be my focus now. Moms are going to be involved in sessions.

We will have some separately. But this is how I'm supporting families now. And if you would like to join in that way, let's do it. If not, I referred them to someone else that I trusted. But by doing that, I really wanted the mom to be the one who was listening to their daughter.

I didn't want it to be them having this peace of mind. Like, I'm sending her to a therapist, she's saying everything she's supposed to be saying. She's getting the support she needs, so I can check that off the list. Like her mental health is taken care of for the week. Right.

But I really wanted that mom to have the skills in her own home, to be able to connect with her daughter, for her daughter to be able to share about her world, not just with me, in 1 hour a week. Not to mention that I'm not there for their whole lives. Right. All those moments, all those milestones to come, they needed to know how to communicate, how to work together through them and learn about what's pulling them apart and what's bringing them back together. I just felt like it was really important for them to have that knowledge, not just me.

Yeah. And you know, it's interesting because obviously we had talked about, like, I do have a teen daughter, and I had a very good relationship with my mom as a teen. I really can't think back it as really anything that was bad. And I know that's kind of crazy for people to hear. No, totally.

I mean, I had siblings and I think that's why that butted with my mom. And my parents had gotten divorced when I was twelve, so it was kind of like, let me just but my mom always said I was a little bit more easy. And I was like, oh, that's interesting. So having my own teen daughter and obviously having a good relationship with my mom and me being very confident in myself, it has been a very interesting journey to know where to connect because we are very different in a lot of ways. But then we're also similar in some ways, but probably more different than I was as a teen.

She's very into reading, she's very introspective. I was more like a spaz. It was like RA the girl that was always into things, playing around. And she definitely is a little bit more like she likes her alone time. And I had to kind of really step back and be like and always very headstrong, but support that and be like, okay, just because she's not the same as me, this is beautiful.

And I don't want her to feel that we are different. I'm chatty, I like to ask people questions. She's not as much as a people person. And I remember when she was little going through that and being like, okay, this is interesting. And I remember there was one time I said to her, you should just say, like, good morning to people sometimes.

I know she's not a morning person. That's the other thing. I'm like up at five like this, I don't drink coffee. Very different in very similar ways. And she was like, But I don't want to know how.

I don't want to say good morning to someone because I don't want to get into a conversation. And I'm like, well, honey, that's kind of rude. She's like, but why is it rude? I don't want to. And I'm like, you know what, I get it.

If someone does say good morning to you, I do hope that you acknowledge them because that's rude. But you're right, if you don't want to engage in the morning, that's fine. And that was hard for me because I also was that person that was kind of like, let me step out. And I like saying good morning to people. I like getting in those little conversations and she doesn't.

And so I think you being there to help people through that, especially moms that maybe are insecure or had problems with their own mothers, to be able to navigate it. Because sometimes you do what you don't want to do because you just don't know any different, right? And you might be doing the exact opposite, but it's not necessarily what's needed. That happens a lot with parents. It is more difficult when your daughter's not like you?

Because I think when we have daughters, we think in some ways, she's going to be an extension of us. Like, the things that we love, she's going to love, too. Right? So growing up, my mom, we would have tea parties, and we would go to plays, and we had a lot of the same interest shopping, decorating, all these things, right? So it made it really easy.

And as my daughter has grown, she's happened to like a lot of the same things I like, and I'm so appreciative of that. And we really love it, and it's just special for us. But I also am always holding with me. One day this might change. She might not like this anymore.

Her passion might become something I know nothing about and have zero interest in. But I am going to love it and support it because it's important to her. Right. I say this a lot to Moms. It's not about us.

Right? We are raising this woman, a young woman in the world, and we need her to know, like, and trust herself. And that is the goal. Right. She becomes her own woman, and she's confident, and she follows her heart.

And so that's not going to happen if I'm forcing on her the way that she needs to wear her hair or the clothes that she's wearing or which classes she takes or which sports she plays. That's not her being true to her. So that part is so important. And I love what you said, too, about the greeting in the morning. It's something I actually talk with Moms about a lot.

They bring this up when the behavior or the expectations are different than their own. And I love that you were able to listen to her and think, you know what? You're right. I see how that's hard for you. I see that that's not something you enjoy.

So why is that rude, right? Her intent is not to be rude. She's not being dismissive of other people or saying, I don't care about you. You're not important enough for me to greet in the morning. She's saying, I just don't like it.

It doesn't feel comfortable for me. I want it to be quiet. Right. And so I love that you respected that and you didn't sort of demand that she meets your need to be polite. But that's what it is.

It was more on me. I didn't want her to seem rude because I also know that there's times where I'm like, it could be a harder journey, but just because she's not a people pleaser, that's her journey, and that's not mine. But it is something that is tough. And I love what you said about an extension of yourself, because that's what I always kind of assumed, and I think I shared this with you, and it's very ironic, and we chuckle about it, but I'm dyslexic and her favorite thing to do is read. I was like, oh, thank you, God, really?

But I have said to her, and she likes fantasy books, like, everything that I don't like. There's nothing about it. I'm not interested. However, I just naturally, innately was like, this is my only daughter. I need to step up.

Right? And I think that's where God is like, yeah, I'm going to push you right? I'm going to push you out of your comfort zone. This is not about her. This is about you.

So I was like, can you send me some books that I can listen to and then you and I can have a conversation about it? And so she did, and it was actually very cool. And then we have, like, a couple shows that are now about the books, and I will connect with her because I know that that's what's important. She does play lacrosse, which I did play, and she didn't want to in the beginning, and she does, and she loves that. But that's not where we connect, which is really funny.

It is the books. And it took me a lot, and it takes me a lot to just be like, take a breath and listen to it on your walk, even though this is the last thing you want to do. But again, it's things that I know because I had a good relationship with my mom, and my mom connected with me on, even though she and I were very different, my mom and I are very different. So I love that you say that, and I love that that's how you lead and that you also see that in your own daughter as well. Yeah.

And so how interesting that you knew how to do that with your daughter, because your mom did it for you, right? You knew that. This is something we do. We bend and we reach them where they are, which is a huge message, is that we accept our daughter where she is and we meet her there. And I think even if we don't love the topic or the interests that they have, when we see it through their eyes, it becomes so fun, right, when we're just like, wow, this really fills you up.

And I want a part of that because I love to see you happy. And fulfilled, and that's what it is. And even my husband has, like there's like, some movies and stuff, and he has done it innately on his way because we have two boys that he really connects with on many different things. And it's interesting, I think sometimes she's the only girl and different than her mom, actually. She's five two, she's light hair.

Like, we even look different. So it's like there's so many things that it's just again, yes, I think I did learn that from my mom, but I also think innately, I am a person person, right. I want to connect. I want to feel where you are, I want to know about you. And that is difficult.

As Tina, I do ask her too many questions, which drives her insane, and I try so hard not to, but this is my job. My job is asking questions. And so there's so many times where I'm like, okay, I won't say anything, but it's difficult. So when you have a client that comes to you that is really down, everything about them is down. Do you have to really work from the bottom up or do you work from the top down?

Did I say that? You know what I mean, right? Yes. I'm not practicing therapy anymore, so I feel like my clients aren't necessarily in that place. A lot of times they are moms who are really successful in some areas, whether it's like career or with other children and other relationships.

And there's this pain in the relationship with their daughter, and they either need to heal it or they want to protect it or feel more confident in their connection. And so my focus is the mother daughter relationship, and so that's all we talk about. So I should have rephrased that. So when you were working, is that where you had to kind of really go all the way down to the bits, like where the relationship broke down? Or were you the type of person that kind of worked from the top?

Like how you do now when you were practicing? Okay. Yeah. And right now still, I do dig into the past for sure, like what happened. Right.

And so not only with their relationship, but the relationships that came before. We're talking about the mom's relationship with her mom, her mom's relationship with her mom. Right. And we're looking at the patterns in the family because they really do help us tell the story of what happened and what we repeated, what we need to change, and then, of course, each person's own feelings about where they're hurt and what we need to focus on and heal. I love that I'm going to ask you more questions, but I would also love because I know that there's so many moms that listen to this podcast that I'm sure like okay.

And I know we said where they can find you, but do you also I know you have some really fun things on your website that they can kind of just go to right away if you want to talk a little bit about that. Yeah, so I do work with mothers and daughters privately and coach them typically about three months at a time. And I kind of dive in with them and pull everything apart and put it back together. And then I also have a course, like a self study course for moms where they can learn and just get inside my brain about the dynamics in the relationship, how they can connect with their daughter, how they can see their relationship in a different way and show up as a grounded, confident mom. And then for moms and daughters who are doing well and just really want to protect their relationship and have fun and celebrate that bond, I travel with them, and we go away for a few days and have fun and celebrate their bond and really get them to connect on a different level.

I love that. And again, your website is Hilarymay, and that's Mae.com, so you guys can go there and find all that. Now that you have your own daughter, has there been a time where you were nervous going into this relationship because you know so much, or have you gone in, like, super confident? Has there things that you've had to adjust that surprised you? Yeah, actually, my daughter is almost nine, so she was born before I started focusing on the mother daughter relationship.

So I used all of the knowledge I had about kids and families in raising her. But as she's gotten older, she's at an age now where she's really speaking her mind. She's becoming her own person. Sometimes she's getting overwhelmed by feelings. And so I am dealing with some of those challenges of her being upset with me and her being her being hurt by me.

And it's been interesting to watch her maybe have a meltdown and have all these big feelings and be angry and say things, and I'm listening, and, like, I can't make sense of this. I don't know what's going on. And not giving up is what has helped me get to the root of it, of what that actual little pain is. Something happened with baseball. She slid for the very first time, and she slid into home plate and scored a run, and I couldn't see her because the fence was just, like, blocking her on the ground.

Right. And so she said after the game, did you see me slide? And I said, you know what? I couldn't see you, but I know that's so awesome. It's so awesome that you did that.

And it was really funny because she split on both of her knees instead of the way you're supposed to slide. And later, she was really rude to me and angry, and finally she broke down and said, you weren't watching. You didn't see me slide. That she was really hurt that I missed that. And I have shared with her, but I was watching.

I just couldn't see that piece. Right. And so we were able to break it down and have her understand. I wasn't looking at my phone. I wasn't talking to somebody else.

I was watching you do that. I just couldn't see it. My view was blocked. And so really not giving up and knowing that there's something underneath that behavior and that reaction that I need to understand so I can help repair it and we can move on. Right.

When our daughters don't explain that to us or get the opportunity to explain that to us. They have these hurts that just pile up and maybe they seem small, but as they go along, the more they pile up, the more they have hold against you and this evidence they create of like, you don't care, I'm not important, you're not paying attention. Right. And that's usually the opposite of what we're doing. So I think it's totally helped that I know I just need to keep pushing and that the communication and her feeling understood and loved by me is the most important part.

That's so cool. I love that. And I would love for you to kind of give a tangible tip for someone right now. So I'm going to give you a scenario because my daughter is not a morning person and she has like if she doesn't eat, she could be very grumpy. And I am a feeler, I am someone that wants to talk about it.

Let's unpack it. What's going on that drives her crazy, especially when she's 13, understandable. But if you had a mom come to you and say, okay, so my daughter's been grumpy or rude with me, and I don't know if it's sleep, I don't know if it's the protein thing, I don't know if there's something bigger going on and she's just not expressing herself. What would be that kind of starting point for a mom to start? That kind of, let's open this up and give her things to think about, to way to approach her daughter.

Yeah. So I think there's two things. So the way that I approach my daughter in that situation when she wasn't telling me what was really the problem is really reaching her with a softness. It might sound like, hey, but what's really going on? It sounds like there's something in there and I just can't figure out what's making you angry.

And so the softness in my voice is this invitation to get real and be vulnerable and know that I'm here, I'm going to catch it. I really want to know. It's important to me that I want to understand what's going on. And so even if you don't get an answer at that very moment, she's going to know and she's going to feel that authenticity of you're really curious and she could come back to you and tell you later or know that. And you can say that too.

Even if you don't want to tell me now, just know that you can come to me at any time and I want to hear it. The other piece is sometimes girls are just exploding with anger, right. And they're saying things that might be mean or might feel crazy and they don't make any sense. If she says like, you always do this or you never do this, or I hate when this right. And sometimes we dismiss those things like, that's not even true, that's not even happening.

That's not what I do. But what I. Want you to do is really listen. Listen to those words. What is she saying?

Because there's evidence there of how she feels. Right. Is she saying, you never listen to me? Well, it doesn't mean you don't ever listen to her, but it means she doesn't feel heard. What isn't she feeling heard on?

Right. And I've said that a few times. That really is at the heart of the mother daughter relationship, is in order for daughters to feel loved, they want to feel heard and understood. And so as a therapist or as a coach, it's really easy for me to do that because I've dedicated time to focus on my clients and really listen with a goal of understanding. As moms, we don't always have that time.

Right. We're doing other things. We're distracted, we're busy. But slow down and consider what it is she's actually saying and sort of do your own investigation. Is it possible that's true, right.

Whether that was my intention or not, could she actually be feeling like that? And then that's what you have to tend to. That's what you have to go back and talk about. That's interesting. Now, do you have other children, or is it just your daughter right now?

I have a son, too, who's six. Okay. And do you find that as you're growing this part of your business, and you have had such a rich career in this, have you thought, oh, wait, am I going to understand my son as well? Or do you use some of the same tactics with him as he's little? Yeah, I use a lot of the same things with him.

And I think just my training in therapy, being able to talk about your feelings is so important. And so that was really at the heart of what I taught my kids, is how to express their feelings, how to label them. So he gets a lot of the same. It's not as important to him that he feels heard and understood. It's more important to him, especially right now, that he gets what he wants.

But there are different ways to raise sons, and I think one of them, just knowing about the mother daughter relationship is making sure that I have the same expectations for him that I do for her. Right. And I protect her the way that I might protect my boy. I don't know if you feel that as a mom of boys right. And that I'm nurturing her just the same way that I'm nurturing him.

So for me, it's being conscious of having a balance and not raising them in very different ways. And I feel like especially when they're younger, I mean, I raised them really little, very similar. My daughter was definitely more headstrong and didn't need me as much. She was way more independent. But I also think that's her personality, like the boys, it was all about mom.

It was all about mom until a certain age, then it was like, okay, I like dad, where my daughter was kind of like, I'm going to nurse. I don't need you anymore. I can go with dad and hang out. I can be by myself. But again, it's her personality.

But it is an interesting thing to be like, okay, now I want to raise you guys the similar but you're right to the boys. There's certain things because a lot of people also don't think boys are really sensitive and they're raised to be like these strong people. And boys, sometimes I found that they were way more sensitive than my daughter was, but I think she was able to express it in a different way. And so it is interesting raising two different sexes but also three different people. Boys, girls, it doesn't matter.

There's similarities. There's things and stereotyping and generalizing is what society does. And so the tools that you're giving people, I think, is so beautiful because you're really helping them get the words and stop and reflect and think and look inwards. Because, again, we all want the best for our kids. And at times, especially if it's a parent that's struggling themselves, it's extra hard for them to give back to their kids and what they need.

And I think that's something that you have to do the work on yourself before you can then give back to your kids. And I know that's one of the things why I could kind of see what my daughter needed a little bit. I'm not by any means if you asked her right now, hey, is your mom the best? You don't know what you're going to get each day. So I'm not perfect at all, but I do try to feel like, okay, what do I think she needs?

It is one of those things like, this is not about me. Right. I've lived that part of my life. This is about giving her back. So the fact that you're giving those tools, I think is really remarkable.

Yeah. Thank you. And to your point, much of the work with Moms is having them learn about their own needs, how to ask for what they need, how to know what they need, how to stop doing for everybody and everything, how to have boundaries and say no. It's always part of the work in balancing that so they can show up for their daughters and they can show them that this is a healthy way to move through life, where we put ourselves first. Yeah.

Well, Hilary, thank you so much. And again, do you want to shout out anything that you have coming up that you want to share with the audience? Yeah, actually, on my website, there's a freebie of three lessons from my course, hold on to Your Daughter that your audience can find and take advantage of and apply those tips right away in the relationship. That's wonderful. Well, thank you again for joining your next stop I really appreciate it and love what you're doing.

I know we're going to be connected just because of where life is, but I really appreciate you coming on and joining your story. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. Yes, and you could have listened to this and say, this is great, but I'm not a mom. I don't have a daughter or I don't know.

But there's someone in your life that is a mom, that is a daughter that needs to hear this. So send it to as many people as you can. Think about the first five people that come to your mind. It could be your own mother. It could be a sister.

It could be an aunt. It could be an uncle that his wife needs it. Someone needs to hear this story because they need the tools, because they need to repair something or they need to get ahead of it because they're a little bit behind in the relationship with their own daughter. So, like, rate and review. And don't forget to check out Hilary on all the socials and at her website.

And again, thank you so much, Hilary, for joining your next stop. Thank you. I hope you've liked this episode of your next stop. Please subscribe to my channel, share with your friends and join in each week.

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