(5-minute read) I’m not a fan of gender stereotypes. But I think we can all admit that dealing with girls is not always easy…or fun. Especially when young girls approach adolescence, the transformations that are happening within their bodies and their brains present many challenges: changing bodies, fluctuating moods and hormones, increasing responsibilities, and separating from parents in an effort to forming their own identity. No wonder why teenage girls are so sensitive and moody. And while girls are trying to figure out who they want to be, they face a myriad of opinions, pressures, and influences from various sources, which can be daunting…especially when technology and social media are added to the mix.
Whether we like it or not, social media influencers will for sure have a huge impact on your daughter. But the friends she chooses will play an even more crucial role. Their beliefs, their likes and dislikes, their style, their attitude, their character – all of it will influence your daughter. Think about it. Regardless of age, it’s nearly impossible to resist being influenced by our friends. So now put your inexperienced daughter (who’s also likely to be insecure) in a situation where she differs from her friends and watch it play out. For example, you may have asked your daughter to give back to the community and she couldn’t find the time. Yet when her friends are going to a local charity event, she’s on board. Group think is super powerful (and definitely warrants its own future blog – so stay tuned for that!)
While this can be advantageous, things can quickly turn from positive to negative. For example, your daughter might give up playing the flute because her friends don’t think it’s cool. Doing as others do, instead of living for yourself, is one of the basic forms of peer influence. It becomes most problematic when teens start experimenting with things like drugs, alcohol, vaping, sex, etc, which can happen regardless of how solid of a foundation your daughter seems to have. (again, we’ll save that conversation for another day)!
Not only can peers have a powerful impact on the choices your daughter will make, but they can also significantly affect her social and emotional well-being. As girls are learning how to navigate social hierarchies, the line between beneficial and harmful friendships is one that tends to get crossed time and time again.
When I hear about some of the girl drama between my GAALSters and their so-called “friends” my heart races with anger and aches with pain. How can girls be so mean and vicious to one another? And even worse, why do so many of them just accept and justify their friend’s wrath. Do they not understand that it’s okay to get angry with someone when they treat you poorly or do something wrong? That they can (and should) communicate their feelings?
I couldn’t help but wonder what we as parents can do differently (or better) so that our daughters would not tolerate such disrespectful and hurtful behavior. Moms ask me this same question all the time. Their first instinct is to get involved, as was mine. But I always share with them this story.
When I was in 6th grade, one of my “friends” was being mean and turning everyone against me (sound familiar?). As you can imagine, this was not easy. It eventually got to a point where my mother decided to step in. Okay, I know you’re thinking she called this girl’s mom, which in your mind may or may not be so bad. But nope. She skipped right over the mom and actually called this girl to ask her why she was acting this way. I wish I could say I am kidding. But nope. She really did this. Although deep down I knew my mom had the best intentions, I cannot even begin to explain how angry and embarrassed I was…it just made everything worse!
Since becoming a mom, I’ve thought about that situation on countless occasions. To this day I am still incredulous (and in disbelief) that my mother could do something like that. I felt so invaded, so betrayed. What was going on between my friend and me was my business, not hers.
Yet, when my daughters were experiencing friend drama, I somehow found myself wanting to do the same thing – to get involved in an effort to help, and to ease their pain. Of course, I knew better and never allowed myself to actually make that move. But it sure was tempting.
Unfortunately, even after sharing my experience and recommendations, I’ve had to talk many GAALSter’s moms out of jumping in the middle and trying to manage/fix their daughter’s relationships. Making these kinds of overtures on behalf of your daughter disempowers her and prevents growth, including her ability to manage these situations in the future (which unfortunately, will come up again and again). Plus, being a helicopter parent in this case (or to use today’s term – snowplow parent) usually backfires. The result? Your daughter distances herself from you and often prompts her to become even closer to her friend. So the question remains, what is the solution?
Here are 7 Do’s & Don’ts when it comes to helping your daughter with her friend drama.
Do: Listen without judgement.
Don’t: Give advice or try to fix things.
Don’t: React too strongly though (in either direction). If you do, it can scare them or lead them to believe on some level that you’re not being authentic.
Do: Ask questions. The goal is to learn more about the situation and maybe even what your child needs from you. Some good questions are, “Do you want to hear my thoughts?” or “Do you need help figuring out some possible solutions?”
Don’t: Make it all about you and what you’ve gone through and what you would do. While this is tempting, your daughter will not believe that you can relate to her (you’re too old and times were different).
Do: Stick to your home routine. It helps children feel safe and as if they sill have some control of their life.
Don’t: Start changing things because you feel bad, like letting them watch movies after school or sleep in their bed with them.
Do: Find / create seemingly organic ways to talk about friendships. Use tv shows, current news articles, books or current examples from your life to talk about friendship and what it means to be a good friend. The other goal is to help them understand that other girls are having similar experiences. She is not alone in her thoughts and feelings. This approach will encourage your daughter to continue communicating with you.
Don’t: Try to help her see other girls are having the exact same problem. There’s a fine line here. You want your daughter to know that friend drama and feeling sad, angry, excluded, etc. is something many girls feel. But her situation (and feelings) is unique to her and taking that away from her can make her angry and unable to trust you with these conversations.
Do: Remember that there are three sides to every story. Your daughters, her friend’s and reality (which lays somewhere in the middle). And in all likelihood, you’ll never truly know what happened.
Don’t: Assume your daughter is the victim and didn’t have any hand in the situation whatsoever. (I was going to make this point first, but was afraid it sounded too harsh and would scare people off from reading more. But we all know the parents that hear something about their child and their instinct is to say, “my (insert name here) wouldn’t do that.” So remember, even if your daughter didn’t do anything to deserve to be treated in the way she is, perhaps there’s something that she is doing that you can help with. For example, maybe when her friends are talking she always brings the conversation back to herself and they find it annoying – even though she’s actually just trying to fit in and relate.
Do: Trust your child and her ability to make decisions about her friends, and to let her do so on her own timeline.
Don’t: Force your child to change friends. And as tempting as it may be, don’t even share or allude to this. My wise, former neighbor and friend, who has been through the friend drama countless times with her three extraordinary girls, gave me some advice. As hard as it is to watch, your daughter will figure it out. At some point, she will move on and leave this friend behind. I thought for sure my daughters and those I worked with would be exceptions. I just couldn’t see such strong bonds dissipating. However, I am happy to report her strategy has always proven to be successful. She is wiser than I give her credit for (Sorry mama Ingy. I’ll never doubt you again)!
By doing (and not doing) these 7 things, your daughter will know that she can lean on you for support with her ever-changing friendship drama. At the end of the day though, it’s important to remember that although it’s hard, there are some things in life that we all have to learn the hard way – including your daughter. Finding the right friends is somewhat similar to dating. In many cases, your daughter will have to experience a wide variety of personalities, and even endure some terrible relationships before discovering on her own what she is looking for in a friend. It won’t always be easy, but trust your daughter as she goes through this process. And she’ll come out the other side stronger (and you’ll come out with many more gray hairs)! Good luck and hang in there.Share: