What to Say if Your Daughter is Having Friendship Dramas: Part 1

I am writing this blog post in response to this message:

Hi Michelle –   Can you write something around power playing? To help your child deal with those who play others against them. They are meant to be best friends who treat them so badly. How do we make them see how badly they are being treated and to deal or breakaway without their parents being the bad guys.   

The bottom line is that having friends protects teenagers from being labelled a looser, a loner and getting picked on. Without friends, teenagers are exposed to a life of misery and torture.There is nothing more painful for a teenager than to not have friends.This being so, they would often do anything and put up with anything to avoid being alone. This is where power playing or in my words “bullying” gets its license.

Teenagers often tolerate a lot of teasing, back-stabbing, mood swings and aggression from their friends.  Why? The positives greatly out-weigh the negatives. The pain of not having friends is far more severe than the pain of having friends that don’t treat them well. Teenagers, like adults, choose the option which has the least perceived cost. In other words having friends can cost them a lot, but not as much as being alone. I like to call this the business end of teenage friendships.

I hope these few points assist parents who need to talk to their teenager about how they are being treated by their friends.

Statement: I am concerned about the way your friends are treating you

Bullying can take all sorts of forms including teenagers isolating, threatening, physically fighting or blackmailing each other.  Bullies can enjoy humiliating, demoralising and destroying another girl’s reputation.  None of these are okay, in any degree. Your teenager needs to know that you see what she is feeling.  She is not imagining it and she shouldn’t feel the need to minimise it.

Statement:  I know I can’t tell you to just walk away

Admitting the problem is complex and that there isn’t a simple solution is important.  Teenagers are often told that the only alternative to fighting a bully is to simply walk away.  The advice ‘walk away’ in real life practical terms doesn’t always work.  When teenagers feel that all they can do is ‘walk away’, they feel defeated.  What we don’t want is your daughter walking away with her head between her knees, totally crushed, ready to rehearse every word the bully has said to her in her room that night.  In the same way you don’t beat a bully by being a bully, you don’t beat a bully by cowering away.

Statement:  You can’t cope alone 

Communicating with another person is a great way to process the negativity of bullying. Communicating can help teenagers decided what is true and right, what is their fault and what is not, what they feel and why, and what they can do tomorrow. Sometimes it can even help young people discover how serious the situation actually is. This can be a challenge given bullying is a subject that most young people are hesitant and embarrassed to talk about on a deep level. It makes them feel inadequate. It requires that they verbalise their insecurities and anxieties. This is not something that is easy for teenagers and parents should really appreciate their teenagers when they do open up on this level.

Statement: This is just between you and me

One of the most important things you can do is not over-react when your teenager talks to you about bullying. A parent’s emotion, on top of an already strained situation, is more than most teenagers can bear.  Teenagers are much more likely to blame you or become angry with you if you are pushy or become too emotionally involved. Any conversation you have about bullying has to be a confidential conversation that they feel very safe having and they know you won’t share with anyone else.

Signs your teenager needs support

If you aren’t able to talk openly with your teenager, consider helping them build a relationship with their favourite aunty, grandmother, sports coach, school chaplain, youth group leader or a professional like the team at Youth Excel.  If your teenager is showing any of the following signs, she needs your intentional support:

– Difficultly answering simple questions about friends
– Consistently withdrawn
– Not wanting to go to school
– Excessive mood swings depending on the day
– Feeling generally ‘sick’, increased headaches, general pain, or stomach upsets that may be anxiety based

THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at info@michellemitchell.org and I will respond to it as soon as I can.

If you would like to book me to speak at your school or community event email michelle@youthexcel.com.au

MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at reception@youthexcel.com.au

What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org  for $24.95 plus postage.

Photo by Doriana

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