When I was pregnant, I wanted a daughter, but at the same time, I also feared having a daughter. My own childhood was fraught with girl drama, and some of the old wounds never quite healed. I still wonder why a former BFF ghosted me. I still shudder at the memory of the clique that accepted me one day and excluded me the next. And I still feel shame about the time I failed to stand up to a bully who was spreading mean gossip about another girl in our class. The thought of reliving these types of experiences through a daughter–well, it’s enough to make you want a son.
However, what I have learned as a girl-mom is that my own less-than-ideal experiences can be channeled into helping my two daughters. For one thing, I can easily empathize with their friendship conflicts and take them seriously, even if the slights seem minor or silly. And my kids love nothing more than to hear horror stories about my middle school traumas.
Whether you struggled with childhood friendships or enjoyed a reign as Queen Bee, here are some ways all moms can help daughters navigate their own friendship conflicts:
1. Teach her that friends don’t always have to agree or like the same things to be friends
Young girls often assume that friendship means being joined at the hip. If one friend wants to swing on the monkey bars and the other friend wants to work on a craft, it’s a crisis! Remind girls that it’s okay to have different ideas and interests. After all, being unique is way more interesting than conformity. Friends can take turns, compromise, learn to work together or spend a little time apart and still be best buds.
2. Role-play tricky situations
Conflicts that seem overwhelming get a lot easier when you practice at home. Offer to play the role of the friend while your daughter tries different ways of working out a problem. Or better yet, use dolls or figures to role-play.
3. Walk a mile in another girl’s shoes
It can be challenging to get kids to find their empathy. I find it helpful to prompt, “Well how would you feel if your friend said that to you?”
4. Give her mad strategies
When my third grader gets angry, she practically turns into Giganta. We work on ways to calm down before she says something she’ll regret. Instead of lashing out with “I hate you,” we practice saying, “I’m too upset to talk right now – I need some space.” This works well between siblings, too!
5. Learn the right way to apologize
It’s not “I’m sorry you’re upset” – it’s, “I’m sorry I upset you.” Apologizing means taking responsibility and working to make things right. This is a good one to model at home.
6. Encourage her to branch out
If the friend group at school is causing stress, it’s a huge relief to spend time with different girls at dance class or the community softball team. Having more than one group of friends to turn to can really save the day.
7. Model how to be a good friend
Our daughters are always watching us. (Any mom who’s caught her kid staring, in fascinated revulsion, at her stretch marks or mom-pooch knows this!) So, I make sure my daughters see me making soup for a sick friend, buying birthday flowers or calling to check on a friend who’s having a tough week.
8. Share examples from your own life, both past and present
Not only do kids get a kick out of our stories, but we can show our daughters they’re not alone, friendship conflicts happen to everyone, and they will survive.
9. Help her differentiate between everyday drama and truly toxic situations
In other words, fights blow over; bullying doesn’t. Most disagreements can be worked out and do not signify the end of the friendship. But if a so-called-friend is repeatedly belittling you, excluding you, talking about you behind your back and generally making you miserable, it’s more than okay to cut ties.
10. Remind her of past successes
For a young girl, every new conflict feels like it’s the worst thing that ever happened, so it’s good to remind her that she’s dealt with this before. Tell the story of the last time she overcame a friendship conflict–using lots of praise and admiration–and she’ll see that she can do it again.
Want to empower your daughter even more? The DC Super Hero Girl line features seven Action Dolls (Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Bumblebee, Green Lantern, Zatanna and Katana). The line also includes the “Teen to Super Life” Action dolls. These are comprised of Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl. They showcase the girls in their teen looks as well as their super hero looks.
Catch the DC Super Hero Girls show, now streaming on Netflix in the U.S.