Last year I wrote an article, “Why Mean Girls Are Mean.” In that article I discussed research that showed some reasons why this phenomenon is ever-present in the lives of our girls (it happens to our boys too.) Some search for the power they feel when they put someone else down was well as a boost to their status in their peer group, or so they think. So what can we as parents do to help our daughters navigate this world that can seem sometimes cruel and isolating? Here are 4 suggestions that might help.
- Listen. If you are privileged enough to have a teenaged daughter that will actually talk to you about what is going on in her life, which can actually be quite frightening for her, it is so important to pay full attention and give her all of your focus. This means shut off the TV, know that the laundry can wait and put away your phone (with the ringer off optimally.) Your daughter needs to know that what she is telling you is important to you.
2. Reflect Her Feelings. There will be time for offering solutions but first and foremost your daughter needs to know that you understand how she is feeling. Before jumping in with what she should do, a hug can go a long way, accompanied with words similar to, “That must be really disappointing to learn your friends planned a sleepover without you. I can imagine you might feel really sad.” Make sure the words you use are your own so your daughter doesn’t feel patronized.
3. Discuss potential options to navigate the problem together. If your daughter feels like she is a part of the planning of the solution it will make her feel better and more in control. Additionally, if she knows you are by her side it can give her more strength to persevere. Should she send her friend a text telling her how she is feeling about being left out? Should she ignore the friend and shrug it off? If she asks for you to talk for her (if you are friends with the other girls mom it might complicate the issue,) attempt to steer her to other solutions where she is speaking up for herself directly.
4. Show Your Continued Support. As time goes by your daughter might stop discussing the situation. It is important to let her know you are still available to help her but not to continuously bring it up as a constant reminder. If her long term friendship is petering out she will need time to mourn the loss of the friendship and figure out how to navigate her social circle for herself. You are there for support but by giving her room to figure things out on her own you are giving your teen a more powerful tool that she will need to use for the rest of her life, her own self-resilience.