Raising your daughter

Sugar and spice and all things nice... or moods and malice and meanness? What is your daughter made of? How can you support, guide and enjoy her?

When friendships go wrong

Why are friendships so important to girls-*and why is it the end of the world when they go wrong?*

Most girls want to have friends-have someone to share secrets with, who looks out for them each morning-and someone who’ll miss them when they’re absent. But, beyond that, your daughter’s choice of friends says a great deal about her, both to her and to others.

Along with how she dresses, her choice of friends is a large part of the image she wants to portray-she’s popular, part of the “in-crowd”. In short, she’s worth knowing. And here’s the proof-other girls like her- and the “cooler” they are, the greater her standing in the wider social group.

Within the group, it’s a safe place for her to try out ideas and opinions. It builds her confidence to know that her friends agree with her, be it about world issues or that must-have shade of nail varnish.

There’s also much sharing of concerns. Worries about their health, parents, boys, exams-all are shared-and often in great detail, with her friends being sworn to secrecy.

And, because for many girls, the need to belong is so strong, their groups tend to become exclusive and, although they may be friendly towards other girls, there are often very clear boundaries between friendship groups.

So, when it goes wrong, it is the end of the world for your daughter because now she’s lost part of her identity, she’s lost her place in the social order and her support structure for her ideas.

Those secrets are now regretted. The former friends know everything about her. Now the bond is broken, they might tell. Worse, they might be laughing at her.
And the fact that she’s been part of an exclusive group means it’s all the harder to join a new group, at least for a while. So, when the worst happens,

How can you help your daughter through the experience?

Don’t under-estimate how important this is to her. It is the end of her world as she knows it. Let her know you understand that-and how hurt she feels-and be prepared for her to show real grief over the loss.

Ask her if she thinks there’s any way back. Did she upset them in some way? Does she need to see if she can put that right? What would be the best way to do that?

If the distress is extreme or prolonged, it’s worth letting someone at school know-maybe her form tutor or head of house or head of year. It may be appropriate for them to get involved but, if nothing else, they can offer support as she finds her way through.

Do resist the temptation to contact parents of other girls involved-unless you’re offering an olive branch on her behalf. Another layer of involvement usually makes it harder for the girls to work things out.

And afterwards, whether or not the friendship is restored, take the opportunity to talk with your daughter and help her learn from the experience. Those lessons will stand her in good stead for the rest of her life.

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Of all the articles on this site, I think this is the most relevant – not because it is more important than, say, pregnancy, but because friendship problems are an absolute certainty when a group of 13 year old girls inhabit a school. I think there is a lot more to say about identity, fear, expectations and tolerating difference, but this article has given me a great starting point for more thought and research into this really important aspect of managing schools and teenagers.

By AHAMPTON on Wednesday 27 July 2011

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