I follow my daughter Alana across the parking lot, watching her hijab stir in the wind as she leads her children to the dentist’s office.

When she opens the door and walks in, people will stare. They always do. The sight of a Muslim woman turns heads in America, and I understand this. This same sight, of my daughter inside another faith, shocked me and broke my heart.

I’m not alone, though. Mother-daughter relationships of all kinds, whether steeped in the same faith or otherwise, often seem to live in tension, surprise, disappointment, or dismay.

Is it a scheme or conspiracy of nature? Mothers and daughters are “two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement,” wrote the late author Adrienne Rich.

But can we recover? If your mother drives you crazy—or your daughter seems a stranger—can you wrestle a road back to peace and love?

Ever-Present Tension

The answers for me? I must. I did. I’m working on it.

Making peace with my daughter is God work, precisely because it’s hard. I think of Jesus, hanging on a Roman cross, beaten and scourged, yet urging his best friend John not to help save him but to take care of his mother (John 19:25–27). The relationship between a child and a mother is so important that Jesus used some of his last breaths to make sure his mother was cared for. This has profound theological implications for us as well—whether you’re a mother or a grown child.

So on this day, I take a deep breath and start anew. I’m visiting Alana’s city on business for a few days, but I also want time with her three “littles”—my three youngest grandchildren. After the dentist’s office, I suggest a family outing—a movie.

“How about we see Cinderella tomorrow?” I turn to my daughter.

In the car, one child says, “Yay!”

Another child says, “No!” The baby, in her car seat, kicks her legs and grins, chewing on her bottle.

And my grown daughter? She frowns. “Tomorrow?” she asks.

I can see her mind clicking through her jammed schedule. Her husband arranged a dinner with a business associate tomorrow evening, so she’ll have to manage that. One child has Girl Scouts. One is fighting a cold. And she has a meeting about a soccer team she’s agreed to coach.

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Amidst all the busyness and stress, the odds feel stacked against us. Will we make it to the Cinderella movie? Probably. But happily ever after?

A Greater Battle

As it turns out, bridging the divides of relationships is the warp and woof of life. The Bible puts it like this: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

This isn’t only about my daughter’s faith choice. It’s about life. We are in a battle. Life isn’t a Cinderella fairy tale—it’s full of complications. “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives,” the medical missionary Albert Schweitzer described.

Knowing that, my daughter and I decided two years ago to face our tensions head on—to finally talk and attempt to sort out our divide. We wrote about our work to repair our relationship in our new book, Undivided.

Was it easy? Nope. Was it a throw down? Yep. Must we work hard to maintain our peace? Every single day. But from that experience, I’ve learned three strategies for transforming a mother-daughter rift into a strong, resilient relationship. Because we must—or at least we really should try.

1. Commit to Bridging

How? Agree you have a problem. Alana says that this is often the hardest part, and I agree. To bridge a divide with one’s own mother or daughter takes courage and truth—first to admit your standoff isn’t working, then to have courage to tell the truth about it.

A wise mom and daughter take the upper hand to mend such brokenness by first agreeing: Enough! Let’s stop building walls. Let’s start build bridges.

Notice there’s no finger pointing here. Nobody says, “I’m right” or “You’re wrong.” It’s both mom and daughter saying: “We can be better. You’re worth it. I’m worth it. Let’s get to work.”

This is grown-folks bridging, and it’s not easy. Not at first. But if a relationship is worth it, it’s the first step to try.

2. Start Really Talking

Don’t try this at home—well, at least not without battle armor. Opening up the door to real conversations positions a mother and daughter inside a chasm between victory and disaster. Proceed prayerfully.

As you talk, consider this reminder from Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (NIV).

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I find such conversations throughout the Bible. I’m talking about the hard conversations—the ones where you have to talk about the deepest issues and the biggest problems—often through stories.

Remember when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, wife of his soldier Uriah, and then sent Uriah to the front lines of battle to die? After Bathsheba mourned, David married her and she bore him a son.

But “the LORD was displeased” (2 Samuel 11:27). So the prophet Nathan confronted David, not with direct criticism, but with a story. Describing two men, one rich and one poor, Nathan told David that the rich man—owner of many sheep—cruelly slaughters the poor man’s one beloved sheep to feed a traveler.

David was outraged. The rich man should be killed!

Nathan said to David: “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Broken by truth, David sought atonement from God. Through Nathan’s story, David saw the situation for what it truly was.

With my daughter, as she shared her stories—and I shared mine—we recognized not only the truth of our stories but our mutual humanity.

She wears a hijab, but she’s my daughter. She’s a mom, wife, neighbor, schoolteacher, and friend. When she tells me stories of her life, she’s more than a Muslim. She’s a person.

When I tell her stories of struggles with her dad in our marriage and efforts to repair that bond, she says: “I never knew that. Tell me more.”

In my story, I’m not just a mom. I’m a person too. Stories help us see that. Real talk lets this happen.

3. Work on Asking Questions

The Bible puts it this way: “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2, KJV). Though this verse is talking about asking God for what we need, the principle remains the same in interpersonal relationships.

In the healing of a mother-daughter rift, perhaps the most powerful strategy is not only to talk but to ask questions like, “How did I hurt you? How did that feel? Should we keep trying? Are things between us better?”

Jesus, of course, used this tactic of asking questions as a core method of healing. To the blind beggar Bartimaeus, the woman with the issue of blood, the bedridden man at the Pool of Bethesda, and more, Jesus responded first by asking questions.

What do you want me to do for you? Who touched me? Would you like to get well?

With each problem, the compassion of asking a question held the power of the healing.

And it’s a lifelong process. My daughter and I should never stop working on our relationship—because we’re both worth the effort. The same is true for you. Keep choosing peace. No matter what. As you build that path, you’ll be surprised where it takes you—not just back to each other, but back to God.