Helping young girls deal with the roller coaster world of friendship can sometimes be complicated, overwhelming, frustrating, exhausting… or all of the above. As parents and educators, we often wonder if we’re giving the right advice.
Here are a few basic tips to coach the tween girl in your life through what GirlPower calls Friendship Fires™.
The Do’s and Don’t When Supporting Girls Through Friendship Fires
Do not say, “Just ignore her!” As much as you’d like her to ignore the other girl, she can’t.
Do ask, “Did you stand up for yourself?” Impress upon her the importance of confronting the Fire and standing up for herself.
Do not say, “She’s just jealous!” This statement offers no comfort or tools for putting out the Fire.
Do say, “You can only control one person – and that’s YOU! What can you do to make this situation better?” Take the focus off the other girl and put the power back in her hands.
Do not say, “You are not allowed to be her friend anymore!” She will resent this demand.
Do explain to her that sometimes creating some distance and taking time “off” is all friends need to improve the friendship. If she has not confronted the Fire, role-play with her so she can practice. Encourage her to do things she loves.
Do not say, “This is just something all girls must go through.” This statement tells a girl she must suffer through and she is helpless. We cannot normalize the behaviours of “mean girls.”
Do say, “You should not be friends with someone who makes you feel bad. Surround yourself with good friends.” Let her know that she is in control of her life, and trust and respect are ‘must-haves’ when it comes to friendship!
Do not get emotionally invested. If you are a parent, do not call the other girl’s parents or storm into the school expecting someone to consequence the other girl. The reality is they might be back to “Besties” by tomorrow!
Do, instead, ask her what you can do to help. Just being supportive might be enough.
Empathize. Hug. Listen. Share your experiences. Leave her little notes in her lunchbox. Tell her she can get through this. Let her know she’s not alone. Show her LOVE.
Parents: To learn more ways to support your daughter, check out GirlPower’s parent-daughter workbook, The Friendship Project.
Educators: To bring one of GirlPower’s Friendship Experts to your school or learn more about Friendology 101, the curriculum designed for schools, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
About Dana Kerford
Dana Kerford is a teacher, friendship expert, author and the founder of URSTRONG, an internationally recognized social-emotional wellbeing program for children. With extensive research on relational aggression and conflict resolution, Dana developed a skills-based friendship curriculum for girls, GirlPower, in 2009 and launched the brother program, GoodGuys, in June 2014. In 2016, after attending a special invitation to the White House to participate in a conference on gender equality, she designed and launched URSTRONG’s co-educational curriculum. Dana and her team of Licensed Presenters have worked with over fifty thousand tweens, parents and educators across North America and Australia and have been featured in magazines, newspapers and on television programs. Dana's passion to empower children with the skills, language, and self-confidence to be better friends and develop healthier friendships is the heart and soul of URSTRONG.