Did you hear what Sophie said to Jenna about what Claire told Megan after school today?
Or, did you hear that Hailey is not going to play with Gina because of what she told Lindsey about liking Patrick?
Well, your daughter probably did.
And, chances are, she’s just as confused as you are.
It’s sad to say, but social drama starts early. Without warning, there are cliques, friendship groups, unwritten rule and expectations about who-can-say-what-to-whom.
As a parent, you have a right to be concerned. Sometimes these groups end up bullying children or making certain kids feel left out.
Entering the world of school-age-friendship drama can be a complicated task for parents. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you work together with your child to navigate through their social world.
Helping your child through friendship drama
- Listen: This means, undivided attention given to your child without a response. Give visual cues that you are listening, such as nodding your head or looking confused. Use verbal phrases such as, “hmmm…” or “I see…” or “Wow!”
- Ask questions: These questions are open-ended, exploratory questions that will help you learn more about the situation. “How did you feel when she said that?” or “What happened next?” or “What were you hoping would happen?”
- Empathize: Find an emotion or a way to let your child know that you are listening. “That must have felt horrible!” or “I can’t believe you were able to stay in class after that happened!” or “How sad that your best friend would say that.”
- Ask how you can help: Rather than jumping in with a suggestion or picking up the phone to “fix it,” ask your child what they need from you. For example, “Do you want to hear what I think?” or “Do you need help coming up with a solution?”
- Brainstorm together: If your child wants to find a solution, work towards an answer together, rather than forcing her to do what you think is best. Role play different scenarios and help your child find one that she feels comfortable trying.
- Keep the conversation open: Friendships change rapidly, your child is going to need to talk often. Encourage open communication in the future by ending the conversation with, “If you ever want to talk more about this, I’m here for you.”
- Talk regularly about friendships: Find ways to use books, TV shows or examples from your own life to talk about how to be a good friend, how to stand up for victims of bullying or how to be confident when faced with peer pressure.
- Fix the problem yourself: It may seem easier to jump in and solve the problem for your child. However, your solution may make things worse. Encourage your child to brainstorm, role play and eventually handle the problem herself.
- Force your child to stay with or change friends: Talk about the pro’s and con’s of remaining with a certain group of friends. Review qualities of healthy, good friendships. This is a great learning opportunity for your child.
- Assume your child is the victim: Your child may appear to be the one being picked on, but there may be more to the story. Use role play to help your child tell you the rest of the story, “Ok, what did Jaden do after you took the pencil…”
- Ignore hurtful comments: If your child reports something hurtful, don’t brush it aside or tell them that it is “nothing.” You don’t have to dwell on it, but empathize with them, and then turn the conversation to something positive about your child.
- Allow bullying: If you know or suspect that your child or their group of friends is acting in a way that is bullying other students, speak up. Talk with your child about bullying and explore how the other children may feel; encourage them to make amends.
You may never be able to keep up with who likes Patrick now or understand why Lindsey gave Claire a dirty look in gym class, and that’s ok.
The important thing is that your daughter knows she can count on you to help her navigate and feel confident in the midst of the ever-changing friendship drama.
For more information about how to bully proof your daughter, I highly recommend the book: Little Girls Can Be Mean, by Michelle Anthony