An approach to help parents support their daughters through friendship issues
“Early adolescence appears to be especially stressful on adolescent girls’ friendships and peer relations, signified by a sharp increase in indirect relational aggression. More typical of girls and more distressful to girls than to boys, relational aggression, characterised by such behaviours as spreading rumours or threatening withdrawal of affiliation, appears to emerge as girls attempt to negotiate current power relations and affirm or resist conventional constructions of femininity.” (The American Psychological Society)
If you are reading this page as a parent it is likely that you are doing so because you are worried about your daughter at school. First things first: is she being bullied? Bullying is defined very precisely in law and you have to decide whether your daughter’s life is being made persistently unhappy, over time by other pupils. How long is ‘over time’? The law doesn’t say but a good rule of thumb might be two weeks. So, we can distinguish between an ‘act of bullying’ and ‘being bullied’ because they are not the same thing. For you to know your daughter is being bullied, there needs to have been several acts of bullying over a period of time and not too far apart.
This all sounds very cold and unfeeling! But it is important not to be claiming your daughter is being bullied when the circumstances do not justify it because otherwise you may be accused of crying ‘wolf’.
If she is being bullied, then contact the school and make sure they know the full story.
But what if your daughter’s unhappiness is not the result of bullying, but just turbulence in the friendship groups? Is she experiencing ‘Queen Bee’ behaviour from other girls? Are there girls spreading rumours and sharing secrets? All this amounts to circumstances that can cause real unhappiness but can equally make you feel powerless as a parent.
Specific help and guidance is available in the form of a book, written by the creator of Girls on Board, and his two daughters. “When Girls Fall Out” is a fresh and frank look at parenting, told from the daughters’ point of view. We are confident that, whatever the circumstances surrounding your daughter’s friendship issues, this book will help. You can buy the book here.
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We had feedback from a Year 6 mother whose daughter had told her that it was the most useful talk about friendships that she had ever had.