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Helping Your Child Handle Mean Girls



"The only way to have a friend is to be one."

Teen friendships, parenting,
                       Me and my girls

Dear Parents:

What makes a good friend? 

This is something I've been discussing a lot lately with my 12-year-old twin daughters, Taylor and Kendall, as I help them navigate the ever-changing landscape of teen friendships.

(Download our Healthy Friendships Tipsheet-PDF)

Since starting middle school, my girls seem to have a “best friend” of the week.  While I think it’s terrific to make new friends, I want to make sure they aren’t ditching their old pals. “How would you feel if you were her?” I asked when they suddenly stopped being friends with a girl they'd been close with for years. I cannot tell them who to be friends with, but I can teach them to be sensitive to the feelings of others. 

And then there’s the flip side – comforting your child when a friend turns on her.

(Blogger and friendship expert Dr. Irene S. Levine offers tips on cheering your child up when a friend lets her down

I remember when Kendall told me how two of her “friends” suddenly cast her out at the lunch table. "Who invited you to sit here?" they asked before telling her to leave. It was heartbreaking to hear. 

(Don’t like your child’s friends? Mommy blogger Jenny Runkel offers 3 things you can do.)

I had to remind Kendall that girls in their teenage years can be mean and say hurtful things just to make themselves feel better. 

(Ask these 20 questions to find out if your teen has a toxic friend.)

I try to encourage my girls to be kind to everyone, even if they don’t like the person. As cliché as it might sound, what comes around goes around. 

(Mommy blogger Lisa Frederiksen shares this important parenting reminder: Teens Learn Best When the Going Gets Tough.) 

Here are 8 ways to encourage healthy friendships: 

1. Regularly talk about what true friendship means – and the qualities that are important in a friend.

2. Help your child recognize behaviors that do not make a good friend. 

3. Let your child know if you disapprove of one of his or her friends (or a group of friends) and explain why.

4. Try to be a good role model and use your own relationships to show how healthy friendships look and feel.

5. Get to know the parents of your children's friends. 

6. Talk to your child frequently -- about everything from events of the day to his hope and dreams to dealing with peer pressure.

7. Know who your kids are hanging out with. (I don’t make my girls feel like I am being nosy but I do let them know that I have the right to check their phones, email and text messages should I feel the need to.)

8. Remind your child that that you are always there to lend an ear

To me, a good friend is someone you can always count on. Someone who is there in the good times and bad. A true friend loves you for who you are and does not change how she feels based on what other people think.