Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Parenting Question: Why Are Girls’ Friendships So Dramatic?

June 25, 2015

We’re up to Part 4 of this (mostly) parenting Q&A series. I’ll occasionally throw in a teen question because, hey, it’s always enlightening to hear kids talk about what we do that drives them nuts. Today’s question concerns the confusion of a parent whose daughter is having an emotionally difficult time (again) with a best friend.

Best friends forever, right?

Best friends forever, right?

Today’s Question: Why are girls’ friendships so dramatic? My daughter had a best friend from 2-5th grade. When that girl moved away, my daughter was distraught. Now she’s in 7th, with a new best friend who may be losing interest. My daughter is getting very worried and upset. What can I do to help her put this in perspective?

Since 1997, the #1 issue girls write to me about is betrayal or rejection by a friend. Specifically, “My bff has a new bff! What do I do?” The email writer goes on to describe how she’s crying herself to sleep, has lost her appetite and doesn’t want to go to school or anywhere! Parents are often confounded by the intensity of their daughter’s emotions in these situations. Moms and Dads want to know what they can do to help.

Here’s the way I see it: A girl’s dramatic response to a friendship that’s cooling off resembles how one might react to a romantic break-up. Some girls even refer to losing a friend as getting “dumped.” Girls’ attachment to other girls is a precursor to their search for the The One, aka the Soul Mate, if you believe in that kind of stuff. Even if you don’t, it represents a search for someone who “knows me” and “understands me.” Someone who will laugh at what I laugh at and be equally moved by the things that move me. Someone I feel so close to that I barely need to explain myself to them.

When a girl’s bestie loses interest, and, for whatever reason, wants to spend time with another friend, it’s a major loss. Girls often describe it in classic stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, until they can find their way to Acceptance. That’s where parents can help.

Tips for Helping Your Daughter Process the Loss of a Friend

1. Do not minimize your daughter’s angst. This “drama” she’s feeling and expressing is real. She needs your willingness to listen, without judgment. Dads, I know you want to help, and sometimes you may feel you have no idea where all these emotions are coming from. Moms, you’ve probably had some personal experience with friendship drama (past or present), so help your daughter’s father understand. Bottom line, the goal is not to commiserate with a sobbing girl, but to help her figure out a way through this.

2. Let your daughter talk about how she feels. Just listen with compassion and patience. When you do that, she will calm down because you are giving her an opportunity to express her feelings responsibly and appropriately.

3. Discourage her from getting on social media or her phone. Otherwise the whole thing will blow up like a conflagration, spreading like wild fire. Allies of both girls will feel pressure to take sides and rush onto the digital battlefield. That kind of drama is social garbage and no girl needs more of it in her life.

4. Work toward a reachable goal. After your daughter calms down, ask her “What is the best outcome you can imagine?” Likely she’ll say, “I want her to be my bff again!” Please gently remind her that she doesn’t have the power to control other people’s feelings or behavior, but she can help herself feel better about the situation. For example, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she could talk directly to her friend. This might result in a new awareness for your daughter in these areas:

a) what she needs in a friendship

b) where she draws the line in terms of how she lets people treat her

c) why it’s essential to have high standards for yourself and your friends

d) how important it is to be with someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them

5. Encourage her to shop for a new best friend. Talk with your daughter about the qualities she deems important in a friend. Help her make a list (if she wants your help). Once she knows what she’s looking for she may decide that the “loss” she just experienced wasn’t so much of a loss at all. She may also be energized to go out and find a new best friend –one who provides more of what she needs.

I hope this helps you and your daughter. If you’ve got a question about parenting tweens and teens, email me.  If your 8-12 year old daughter could use some help navigating friendships, check out my latest book – The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the Drama. 

 

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Defense Against the Dark Side: Where’s Harry Potter When We Need Him?

April 23, 2015

A Good Use of Power

A Good Use of Power

In our 40 years together, David and I have read many books. Add another hundred or so books on tape we’ve consumed on road trips. Yep, we’re addicted to good stories. So it wasn’t too weird when, after a business trip to Florida and a side trip to Universal’s Wizarding World, we decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books… aloud… to each other.

Starting in mid-December, I’d read a couple chapters over breakfast each morning. At dinner, with wine and candlelight, I’d read another chapter or so. If we were driving for more than 20 minutes in any direction, I’d read aloud in the car. (Yes, I can do that without barfing. Lucky me.) At the end of each day we’d watch the film adaptation of the current book, making sure to stop when we got to a new part (i.e., a section of film we hadn’t yet read.)

To date we’ve completed six books and six films. (When we get into something we really get into it.) We’re now half-way through Book 7.

Ever since the kids of Hogwarts took their education into their own hands, I’ve been thinking about the Dark Arts as it relates to the dark side of humanity. While we rarely hear about jinxes or debilitating spells, we’re plenty aware of public humiliation and shaming in social media. Character assasination is a curse, high on the list of Dark Arts. So how do we defend ourselves against the real and present danger of social garbage? How do we teach our kids to defend themselves, online and off, from the hostility of their peers? Where is Harry Potter when we need him?

When I think about what it means to defend oneself, I picture someone standing up for their rights or the rights of others and actively fighting back against the vitriol. But there is inherent danger when one uses vitriol to fight vitriol. The weapon we use has the power to infect us and make us more and more like the perpetrators we seek to vanquish. We can so easily become the enemy. Doing the right thing in a good way isn’t easy.

How do you help your children defend themselves against the prevailing Culture of Cruelty? How do you teach them not to succumb to its ways? Post here and let’s get into it. You can also follow my tweets at @Annie_Fox and @GirlDramaChat. Every Friday you can join the conversation as I host #girldramachat, a weekly Twitter chat (11AM PST) to help parents/teachers/counselors support girls thru friendship drama w/compassion, respect & social courage.

 

 

 

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Girls’ Friendship Issues Haven’t Changed

March 17, 2015

Morning walks with The Pupster reveal more and more free stuff in the neighborhood. Curbside boxes filled with coffee mugs (“Kalua!”), anemic Christmas cacti, Danielle Steele novels, rusty tools. (Be still, my heart!) Horray for spring cleaning. I should race down to my own garage and thin out the flotsam and junksam, but I’d rather be blogging.

My best friend doesn't love me anymore!

My best friend doesn’t love me anymore!

Though yesterday, I did a bit of feng shui. In my SENT BOX, I  found a dust-covered Hey Terra letter from 2002. (Thank god, I answered it promptly, thirteen years ago.) I have no idea why I hung on to this one. I’ll take it as a sign it should be posted, if for no other reason than to give me permission to delete it and to show that when it comes to girls’ friendship issues, some things don’t change.

Hey Terra,

My best friend of five years has just decided to end our friendship.
She claims that I constantly destroy her self-esteem. I always try to support her, and tell her how wonderful she is. I am usually there to pick up the pieces after she is hurt by others. So I don’t understand why she’d accuse me of things I have never done. She also claims that we don’t get along anymore. This is the first spat we’ve had in five years. She never allowed the friendship to push through the disillusionment/spat to actually cultivate a more meaningful relationship. She just ended it.

She seems to lean towards friendships that really have no depth.
She always has to be the leader of the group. Another thing, she
never has any passion for anything in her life (except her own
wants).  She cannot see past herself.  She tends to separate
herself from people who actually have passion in their life.
She never listens either. I just do not understand why she would be
like this, and why she refuses to listen to anyone. Doesn’t a close,
five-year relationship mean anything to her? She wasn’t even
willing to try to work at it!

Thanks,

Curious

Dear Curious,

From what you describe it sounds like you and your friend expect very
different things from a friendship. You seem to be looking for a
“meaningful” relationship that goes beyond the surface. You think of
yourself as someone who has passion for things and you clearly
don’t admire the fact that she “never has any passion for anything…
except her own wants.” You describe your friend as a person who needs
to be in control and tends to be self-centered and “never listens to
anyone.” From your words, she doesn’t sound like much fun to be around.

Yet, in spite of all these differences, which have clearly been obvious to you for a while, you still call this a “close” relationship. That makes me “Curious” too! Is
this a real friendship or a 5-year habit that you might be interested in breaking?

Think about it.

In friendship,
Terra

Meanwhile, back in 2015…. How might we do a better job teaching our girls there are standards in friendships and that it’s smart to evaluate relationships with an eye toward what you want and need? If it turns out that your daughter is not happy in a friendship, encourage her to discuss it (privately and respectfully) with her friend. If that doesn’t result in positive changes, let’s teach our girls to find the EXIT so they can get more of what they deserve from someone else. Your thoughts?

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Why do I have to be just like you?

March 6, 2015

When girls email me about the mean things their so-called friends say and do, it’s often about rocking the boat. You know, Friend A is expressing her individuality and Friend B is, well, uncomfortable. After a bit she can’t stand it and jumps all over Friend A to CUT IT OUT!

Here’s an excerpt from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship that illustrates the problem and the solution for any girl who is tired of playing by someone else’s rules.

Q: “When my friend does weird things I don’t say anything. But when I do something (like a funny dance) she yells at me. I want to tell her I don’t like that, but I don’t want to be mean, like her.”

21AshamedFriendFIN

Illustration © Erica De Chavez, 2014 from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, written by Annie Fox

A: I think it’s awesome that you accept your friend for who she is and do not put her down when she does any of her “weird” things. You deserve the same respect from her. She shouldn’t yell at you when you dance, especially since you’re not trying to hurt or embarrass her. You’re just feeling free and joyful, and that’s good.

I don’t know for certain, but maybe your friend gets upset because she’s worried that other girls will tease you about your dancing. Or maybe she’s scared that someone will tease her for being your friend! When we are scared or worried, we aren’t always as kind as we should be. But that’s never an excuse for being rude.

When you feel like dancing, go ahead and dance. If your friend has a problem with that, then talk to her about it. Maybe you can help her lighten up. But whatever you do, please, do not stop being yourself. It’s absolutely the best thing about you.

_________

Check out other 49 Questions in The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA.

 

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

 

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