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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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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Are girls worse than boys when it comes to bullying?

October 22, 2014

As some of you know, I’m currently on a blog tour to spread the word about  The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA. If you are female (any age), and/or if you are raising a daughter, teaching or coaching girls or you’ve got a sister, a niece, etc., I’m guessing you know about girls’  friendship DRAMA. Destructive lunacy, right?

The Girls' Q&A Book on Friendship. Up with compassion and social courage. Down with social garbage.

The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship empowers girls to make choices they feel good about.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the friendship questions my gracious blog tour hosts tossed in my direction as I stopped at their site. No softballs here!

This question comes from the dynamic educator and psychologist, Louise Masin Sattler ( @LouiseASL )

Louise: Do you think we are making strides in reducing bullying in the schools? And are girls worse than boys with bullying? 

Annie: Yes, of course we are making strides. Yippee! Progress should be celebrated. Are those strides being made universally? No. Is the progress happening quickly enough? Hell no! There are still many schools where teachers bully students and where teachers turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to students making sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged comments to other students. There are still school administrators who shrug and tell distraught parents of targeted students, “Kids will be kids.” or “Teen girls are just mean. What are you going to do about it?” (Actual statements made by school administrators as reported to me by extremely frustrated parents.)  

Are girls “worse” than boys with bullying? I don’t believe so. Both girls and boys are afflicted by Peer Approval Addiction in equal measure. Both genders struggle to do the right thing while simultaneously feeling compelled to do whatever it takes to fit in… including stuff they aren’t particularly proud of. The difference, if it exists at all, may be in the methodology girls and boys use to “take down” peers, online and off. That said, the seeds of compassion and empathy are equally prevalent in boys and girls. So, even though I wrote this book for girls, both boys and girls need to understand that their choices matter… in peer relationships and in life.

Read more of Louise’s Q’s and my A’s at LouiseSattler.me

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New school year, new school… new friends (please!!)

August 29, 2014

When you’re all cozy in a friendship you can totally relax. Even going to school is more fun because your friend is there. But when you move to a school where you know no one, and your bff friend from your old school stops acting like a friend, then nothing feels right.

I recently got this email from a girl who is in that sad place:

Girls' Friendship Q&A Book, iIllustration by Erica DeChavez

Where do I fit it?!  (from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)

Hey Terra,

Last year I moved to a new place. Later I heard that my best friend was best friends with some new girl. That girl is apparently really popular and cool (and also kinda mean) and in one year’s time my bff has become friends with all the poplar kids at school. I know it’s wrong of me, but  I feel really sad and envious. I have seen posts of both of them saying how much fun they have together and how they love each other. (Come on! I knew her much longer than this new girl!) And the sucky part is that at my new school, my new friends keep ditching me. I feel so depressed. 🙁
–Sad and Jealous

Dear Sad and Jealous,

When you moved, what did you expect your best friend to do? Spend all day in her room feeling sad and lonely? Of course she missed you. She also wanted and needed new friends. I’m guessing that you are feeling “sad and envious” because you haven’t yet connected with real friends at your new school. HINT: Real friends do not “keep ditching” you.

A new school year just started. My best advice: stop checking your old friend’s FB page. It’s bringing you down! Don’t do it any more. Instead create a new goal for yourself… “I’m going to find a new best friend.”
Here’s how:

  • Grab a piece of paper and make a list (I love lists!)
  • Think long and deep about what’s really important to you in a friendship.
  • Write down all the traits you are looking for in a best friend. For example, you might write: Loyal, a sense of humor, intelligent, shares my interests… etc etc etc.
  • Use that list and go “shopping” for a new best friend. (Be on the lookout for the kind of people at school who’ve got what you want in a friend.)
  • When you find one, smile, say, “Hi,” and see what happens.

Go for it! Good luck! And please let me know how it goes.

Three weeks later…

Hey Terra,

I’M DOING GREAT 😀 I made a few more new friends who wont ditch me? and I think I have gotten over my old best friend. Though I think it would still take some time before I make a best friend.

Thank you so much, Terra!

I love happy beginnings. ;O)

If you could use some new friends this year (you can never have too many of the real kind) make a list and go shopping. It could work for you, too.

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