Amy Specter, Counselor, King Middle School
Backstabbing. Name-calling. Fakeness. Hatred. Two-faced. Gossip. Exclusion. Drama.
Does this sound like what you might see on a soap opera or the latest reality show? It can also be a reality for middle school girls as they navigate the tenuous, shifting, tricky and sometimes vicious world of friendships. Certainly not every girl experiences drama and pain in middle school but for the ones that do, parents can play a vital role in helping their daughters to survive and thrive middle school friendships.
Here are a few ways to help your daughter navigate middle school friendships:
- Listen when she talks to you. Practice just listening, without giving advice. Girls can feel judged and overwhelmed if your response is not calm and accepting.
- Help her widen her circle of friends. Encourage her to sign up for out of school activities where she can meet more people.
- Have boundaries on social media. Facebook requires people to be at least 14 before setting up an account. It can send a mixed message as a parent if you allow your child to break that rule and give her earlier access. If your daughter does have access to social media sites review expectations frequently and monitor her use.
- Have boundaries on cell phones. Make your daughter keep her phone in a common space at night. Contact your carrier about having the phone only be operational during hours you set. Most phone companies will allow you to set up blackout times (e.g., from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.).
- Help her broaden her interests. Sign up for many activities and encourage hobbies. Busy, connected girls have less time and less energy for dealing with drama.
- Share your values with her. Let her know what character traits you look for in your own friendships and be explicit about how you expect to be treated. Be a good role model.
- Get to know her friends. Host people over at your house so you can get to know the people who make up your daughter’s social world. Get to know the parents of your daughter’s friends as well. It takes a village to raise a middle schooler!
- Encourage ally behavior. Praise your daughter when you see her sticking up for someone else and talk about how and why to be an ally.
- Watch media together that depicts middle school girl friendships and talk about what you see. Or, read one of the books listed below together and talk about the issues.
- Get support from your daughter’s school counselor. Counselors are here to support the emotional and social well-being of all students.
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons
Queen Bees and Wannabees, Rosalind Wise
How to Talk so Teens will Listen and Listen so Teens will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Keeping Kids Safe: Children, Mobiles, and the Internet, O2 website