Friendships are one of the most important areas of your teen daughter’s life. They can also be one of the most damaging. If your teenage daughter is dealing with ongoing friend drama, or worse, a so-called mean girl, it can wreck her self-esteem and self-worth. Over time, she may spiral into a tunnel of anxiety or depression. But with effective tools and wise guidance, your daughter can handle friend drama and stand strong in the face of a mean girl.
Understanding the Difference
Friend drama or girl drama typically refers to arguments between friends where emotions can run high and strong words may be exchanged. The disagreement is referred to as “drama” because of the intense emotions that can arise. Unlike mean girls and bullying, girl drama can usually be resolved fairly easily.
Mean girls, or girl bullies, target other girls through ongoing ridicule, exclusion, and gossip. This behavior can be hard to detect because their actions are covert. Mean girls often hide behind screens, shaming, ridiculing or spreading gossip about others online. Sometimes they are shielded by a group and encourage others to follow their lead.
Because of the serious repercussions, it’s important for parents to take mean girls and bullying seriously. SImilarly, parents can help mitigate girl drama by teaching their daughter how to be assertive and respectful.
There are explicit ways to teach your daughter about friendships and girl drama and equip her to handle or avoid girl drama and mean girls.
Build Friend Awareness
Talk about different types of friends. Help her identify the qualities of best friends, good friends, pretty good friends, and acquaintances. Ask questions that get her to consider how each type supports and encourages her, and how she does the same for them.
You can also start important conversations with these questions. As your daughter shares, listen without judgment and try to understand her perspective.
- How do you know someone is a friend? How do they treat you?
- What actions would end a friendship?
- What are your responsibilities as a friend?
- What are your boundaries with different types of friends?
- How do you show others they are important to you?
- What role do qualities like trust, fairness, empathy, and loyalty play in your friendships?
Develop an Understanding of What’s Behind Certain Behaviors
Explain that sometimes girls will gossip or exclude because they think it gives them more power and control. Almost always their behavior is coming from an unmet need they have, not something their victim has done. Helping your teen understand where these mean girl behaviors come from will help her not take their comments personally.
Build a Response Toolkit
Talk about how to respond to a mean girl or de-escalate friend drama. Assertiveness skills are essential, as are knowing what to say and how to say it. Responses to girl drama or mean girl behavior will depend on the situation but the guide below describes options you can share with your teen.
Remember your truth! If rumors are spreading that are untrue, make a point of showing the truth. Remember the people who truly care about you know your truth. If it’s appropriate, go to the source of the gossip and tell the person what they are saying is not OK and not true. If rumors are spreading about something that has in fact occurred, consider taking responsibility, offering an apology if needed, and explaining what you now know and how you will act differently.
This can be one of the hardest experiences, so allow yourself time to feel whatever comes up. Then, determine your best next steps. You may need to talk with the group or a person in the group and let them know you’d like to hang out. You may need to make an effort to initiate hang-outs. You may also need to practice not taking it personally and recognize that once in a while, it is OK for friends to do things without you.
Fighting with a friend-
Allow a cool-off time and during that time, process how you feel and what you need. When you feel clear and calm, reach out to your friend and offer an explanation or an apology,. Go into the conversation remembering your ultimate goal: to rebuild the friendship and understand each other’s needs.
If someone is directly calling you a hurtful name, the most simple response is usually the most powerful. Turn to the person, look them in the eye, and say “Stop calling me that!”
Provide a Safe Space
At home, cultivate an environment of respect and support. Encourage your daughter to share her thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and don’t judge them. If your teen is pulling back from you or telling you you just don’t understand, consider providing her outside support. A life coach can help build your daughter’s social confidence, friend awareness, assertiveness skills, and resilience!