As a parent/carer you’ll know the rollercoaster experience of girls friendships. They can account for many of the highs and lows of teen years. When there are friendship struggles, it can be really upsetting for girls, sometimes significantly affecting how they feel about going to school, and how they get on in school. When friendships are going well, they are fun and nurturing as well as helping your daughter learn about building meaningful relationships outside her family.
Girls friendships is also an area that can be a real challenge for parents / carers to know how to best support and guide their children.
In this article about navigating girls friendships I’ll share five ideas for empowering your daughter in the ups and downs of her friendships. I hope you find them useful in your chats with your daughter.
Support her to see who she is – with all her amazing qualities
Girls friendship issues can be complicated…”she said this, I said that, and then this happened…”. Sound familiar? Of course it’s so important to give your daughter the time to feel heard, and that you understand that it’s upsetting for her.
You can also empower her to build her sense of her own self-worth but helping her to understanding who she is as a person. To see that she is absolutely unique in this world, and has so many amazing qualities that she brings…to her family, her friends, her school and her community.
By supporting your daughter to build her self-awareness and self-understanding this will help her to value herself and all her qualities.
Part of growing up is figuring out who we are. As her parent / carer you play a central role in this process. You can help your daughter to reflect on her own thinking, and help her work out her own ideas for handling different situations. You can feedback to her how much she’s improved, how she’s developing, learning and progressing.
Importantly, support her to be proud of herself and what she’s learning and how she’s adapting to growing up.
This contributes to building your daughter’s well of self-worth.
By feeling better about herself and who she is gives her a strong foundation to navigate her girls friendships.
Learning to see the behaviour – healthy or unhealthy
When you’re chatting with your daughter about what’s going on with her girls friendships you can help her to learn to recognise different behaviours. Whether they are healthy or unhealthy behaviours.
This is an important life skill.
Help her to see the behaviour of the other person. What they are choosing to do. You can help your daughter see that this behaviour is separate to who she is as a person. This person is behaving in a certain way because they’ve made the choice to do so.
This is really tricky! It’s a life lesson that we all learn over and over, through our lives.
It is empowering to teach our young people that there is healthy and unhealthy behaviour in relationships.
It gives them a life skill so they can observe and recognise behaviour.
In my online confidence-building classes I do a powerful exercise with girls when I show them 15 examples of behaviour and they have to decide for each one whether it is healthy or unhealthy, or if they are not sure. We then discuss each behaviour as a group, sharing examples of when it can happen. This exercise is eye-opening for girls.
Here’s a few of examples you can use in your chats with your daughter:
Only talks about themselves, isn’t interested in you (example of unhealthy behaviour)
Being responsible for their own actions (example of healthy behaviour)
Makes an effort to understand you (example of healthy behaviour)
Makes fun of you, and then tells you it is a joke (example of unhealthy behaviour)
You can use these examples to spark a discussion about healthy and unhealthy behaviour in girls friendships. Your daughter can start to learn about other people’s behaviour – and reflect on her own behaviour. Key for developing friendships and relationships.
Learning to communicate our feelings
In the previous section I explored teaching girls to learn to recognise behaviour.
Once we’ve recognised the behaviour, what then?
The next step is to communicate our feelings about how that behaviour in girls friendships is impacting us.
It’s about our feelings. It’s not about telling the other people to change.
We cannot control other people.
This is again a life lesson that we all – adults included – learn over and over in our lives.
We can help our young people to learn this by teaching them some simple techniques for communicating their feelings. In my confidence-building classes with girls we explore how we can express ourselves. I teach them about assertive communication, and how this is different to passive and assertive. I teach girls some simple phrases they can use to express their feelings. One of this is simply “I feel…”
Details of these confidence-building classes are at the bottom of this article.
You can support your daughter to tune into her feelings and how the behaviour of the other person is affecting them. Depending on the specifics of the situation it may not be appropriate for her to express this feeling to the other person. Perhaps she shares it with you and by doing so she feels heard and safe. What’s key is that she starts to learn to identify her feelings and express them.
Realising that we all have choices
One of the metaphors I use in my confidence-building classes with girls is them having their hands on the steering wheels of their lives – they can choose which direction to steer themselves in.
This concept is essential when we’re empowering girls in their friendship issues.
It leads on from the steps above: Learning to see the behaviour and Learning to communicate your feelings.
The next step is to realise we have choices. I’m not pretending these are always easy choices. It is hard to change friendships at school. Hard, but not impossible.
By supporting your daughter to understand healthy and unhealthy behaviour in her friendships, she may realise that she wants something different for herself. She can make a choice. This realisation itself is empowering.
In confidence-building classes with girls I encourage girls to be proactive and to be brave.
In one of the after-school programmes I ran with a small group of girls, one girl realised that she wasn’t enjoying the friendship group that she was part of. So having thought about it she decided to be proactive, and invite some different girls to a fireworks evening she going to. It was nerve-wracking but she did it. She was so pleased with herself for having done so and taken the first step to starting friendships with a new group of girls.
In this step of recognising that we all have choices, the first area of building your daughter’s self-worth is so important. By valuing herself, she can reflect on what she actually wants and then take steps to move towards that.
Being a kind friend to herself
Our starting point for all relationships is our relationship with ourselves.
Because of that liking ourselves – being friends with ourselves – is key.
As with all relationships, communication is essential. In this case it’s how we talk to ourselves – our self-talk – that is important.
Instead of “positive thinking” I encourage girls to be kind to themselves. Encourage and support themselves. Rather than being constantly critical or grumpy to themselves.
Through developing this kind inner dialogue it helps girls feel better about themselves, gradually building their confidence.
They learn to like themselves.
And when we like ourselves we are in a better position to attract and make friends, and navigate the ups and downs of friendships.
Girls friendships are such an important area for girls lives, and can be challenging for both girls and their parents/carers. In this article I’ve shared five ideas to support parents / carers in empowering girls to navigate their friendships. The ideas have been focused on encouraging girls to get to know themselves better, recognise behaviour, communicate their feelings, realise we all have choices and being a kind friend to herself. I hope you’ve found this article informative for your chats with your daughter.
If you’d like a confidence expert to empower your daughter to develop her self-awareness, build kind self-talk and foster self-belief, I run online classes with girls aged 10-12 years old.
In the “Be Yourself. Love Yourself” online class I teach each girl to develop her self-awareness – enabling her to see her strengths, understand her uniqueness and become proud of her individuality.
Click on the image below for more details and to see upcoming dates.
Feedback girls after they enjoyed confidence-building classes with Caroline
“I’ve learnt that we are all different and unique in our special way”
12 year old girl
“I’ve learnt how to be confident and who I really am and I’ve learnt how to be true and positive to myself” 10 year old girl
“Learning to like and accept myself and how I have all these qualities that I didn’t remember I had” 11 year old girl