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Helping Your Daughter Make Friends & Keep Them

May 3, 2015 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

How to help your daughter manage their roller coaster social lives.

Friendships are important for everyone, and even more so for girls. Part of friendships is learning to be a good friend and finding good friends. Sometimes that can take a lot of trial and error and social conflict. It seems to be a necessary but painful part of growing up.

Girls will often lose friends, fight with friends, and get their feelings hurt by their friends. They might also be the ones doing the hurting. The social lives of girls can be a roller coaster ride and it is not easy to be the ones watching from the sidelines.

How can we help our girls manage their social lives and come out whole?

1. Be a Good Role Model:

Our children learn so much from how we act, our own behavior. We need to model appropriate social behavior, being friendly, making time for friends a priority, and by acting in a way that shows respect for others. Refraining from gossip and talking about friends behind their back is important as well. W want to teach kids the basics of choosing good friends and being a good friend.

People who know how to choose good friends look for steady confidantes, and people who like you for who you really are. Good friends are those that value you for yourself and share common interests.

As adults, we also know that it’s okay for friends to make some mistakes but we also know that if you are constantly feeling put down or controlled then that friendship should end.

When we want to get this message to our kids, in addition to our modeling the behavior, we can use “talk out loud technique”. When our kids are in earshot we can let them over hear our conversations with our spouse or even ourselves. “The Shwartz’s just had a baby , I am going to bring them over a lasagna..” “This one friend that I have always seems to criticize me, my hair, my clothes. I know that people who do that are insecure about themselves. At any rate, I think I need to say something to her.”

2. Just listen:

Social conflict can be painful at all ages. Sometimes watching our children go through difficulties with their friends can bring us back to our own childhood. It may stir up old hurts and social anxieties. We need to separate our own emotions from our daughter’s. It doesn’t help to rush in and fix the problem; we need to give our daughter’s the tools that they need to independently manage their social issues.

One way to do that is to give girls a safe space to vent their feelings. No advice, no interventions, just listening. Many times a conversation with our daughter about their friends goes like this:

Daughter: “Molly didn't let me sit next to her at lunch. She is so mean!”
Mom: “I don’t know why you play with that girl. You are always complaining that she is not nice to you. You need to find someone who is truly a good friend.”
Daughter: “There is no one else to play with!”
Mom: “What about Kayla? What about Shana? You never play with Rachel, you used to play with her a lot…”

This kind of conversation can just exacerbate the situation. Although the mom is trying to be helpful, her underlying message is, “You don’t know how to be a friend or manage friendships.”

What our daughters need most is for us to carry on a conversation that gently reflects what they are saying:

Daughter: “Molly didn't let me sit next to her at lunch. She is so mean!”
Mom: “That could be upsetting..”
Daughter: “Yeah, she said that she got a chocolate bar from her uncle and she didn’t want to share it.”
Mom: “Oh, a chocolate bar from her uncle…”
Daughter: “Yeah, if I had a chocolate bar, I would share it with her..”
Mom: “You would feel comfortable sharing a chocolate bar with a good friend.”
Daughter: “She never brings candy to school, her Mom only packs her healthy stuff, she usually does share…
Mom: “She usually is able to share her stuff…”

When we empathize with our daughters and reflect back what they are saying, they can hear themselves think, they are also more likely to come to their own conclusions on how to manage their own social situations.

To help them further, we can also ask them, “Do you want to vent or do you want advice?” When we empathize and take the time to listen we send our children the following message, “This is not a bad situation, you can handle this, you can manage this friendship and make good decisions about your friends.” Unless we know for sure that there is overt bullying going on, this is the best course of action.

3. Teach girls to stand up for themselves:

We can teach girls to use “I” statements to express and stand up for themselves when they feel like they are being treated badly:

“I don't like to be called names. It hurts my feelings.”
“I feel left out when you walk home with Sara…”

Similarly, we can also teach them to apologize to their friends if they were being hurtful: “I’m sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings…”

4. Let them be independent thinkers:

Girls need help learning to resolve their own conflicts. We don't want to give them the answers or try to solve their problems: “Don’t let Shana get to you. When she doesn’t let you play with her jump rope, just walk away!”

Instead, we want to gently empower girls to think of solutions themselves, by asking the following questions:

“What did you try?”
“How did it work?”
“What else can you try?”

Asking these questions gives girls the message that they are not helpless; they can manage the inevitable ups and downs of friendships.

5. Making new friends:

If your child is moving to a new class and does have trouble making new friends it is helpful to give her a brief tutorial in making friends.

In a quiet time, you can say, “Let’s see you are moving into a new class this year. That means new friends. I just read this article about making friends. It gave two simple ways to make friends:

  1. Make an effort- don’t sit around and wait for someone else to strike up a conversation with you, you can smile, and give a compliment like, “I love your yellow headband.”
  2. Find people who like the same things that you do and ask them to join you in that activity, like jump rope, crafts or soccer.

Helping girls navigate their social lives can be tough. However, being a good role model, being a listening ear, teaching girls to stand up for themselves and asking them questions to help them solve their own problems can help.



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