Navigating a Girl’s World

By Dena Embrey, Courier & Press, Sept. 1, 2015 – Working as a Youth First Social Worker in an elementary school, I frequently talk to girls who are having friendship problems.

They often report being teased, criticized, excluded or the victim of gossip and rumors. I hear about how they struggle to be included, and they are often confused by the hot and cold treatment they receive from friends.

During one recent conversation with a sixth grader, she said she wished things were easy again like in first grade when no one cared about who was popular.

Author Rosalind Wiseman addresses the new realities of today’s girl world in her book “Queen Bees & Wannabes.” She supports the idea that bullying behaviors typically associated with adolescent girls are occurring at younger ages.

“Queen Bees & Wannabes” helps break down the challenges young girls encounter as they deal with cliques, teasing, gossip and rumors. Wiseman also educates parents and offers advice on how to help girls navigate their social world. Here are a few of Wiseman’s recommendations:

Seek out ways to strengthen your daughter’s self-esteem. Get her involved in activities she enjoys and expose her to different social groups. Teach her what it means to be a true friend. Don’t expect her to like everyone, but do expect her to respect everyone.

Establish yourself as a source of support. Don’t pass judgment or dismiss your daughter’s experiences by telling her, “Just ignore it,” or “You’re better off without them.” Instead, listen respectfully, thank her for telling you, and help her to identify appropriate ways of confronting the problem. Encourage her to be assertive and respectful.

Practice what you preach. One of the best ways to teach your daughter about positive social behavior is through role modeling. Ask yourself if you are engaging in the same behaviors you are trying to teach your daughter. If your answer is no, own up to it and use your mistakes as a teachable moment.

Limit and monitor her use of technology. One of the biggest impacts on today’s girl world is the access children have to technology like cellphones and the Internet. When used unethically, these can be powerful tools in bullying or harassing others. Parents who allow their children access to these tools are also responsible for teaching the safe and ethical way to use them. Parents must also go one step further and monitor use by having access to their child’s password and taking advantage of the controls offered by cellphone/Internet providers.

Remember that parenting is not a popularity contest. You are not meant to be your daughter’s best friend. Setting limits, holding her accountable and teaching her respect for herself and others are all part of your job as a parent. Her anger with you will only be temporary.

As young girls move toward adolescence, it is normal to rely less on parents and more on friends. The relationships a girl has with her friends play a major role in developing her self-image and future patterns of behavior. Despite this, parents should not underestimate the significant role they play in offering guidance and helping develop healthy relationship patterns.