I hope its okay to write to you, I thought maybe you would have some helpful insight. My oldest daughter is ten, she'll be starting fifth grade this year. Towards the end of school last year and this summer, she has been having some issues with some of her classmates and friends. They have begun to exclude her and ignore her, apparently they have decided she is not cool enough. I honestly did not think these kinds of things happened so soon, I was expecting this in middle school and high school. She is of course devastated, and it hurts my heart to see her feelings so hurt. How can I teach her that it doesn't matter what others think? I want her to follow her own passions and interests without worrying about popularity. I want her faith in God and family to be strong enough to sustain her through these adolescent years. I try explaining this to her, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. Your oldest daughter seems to be so confident and well adjusted, its clear you've done a wonderful job raising her. I know how I want my daughter to be, confident and love herself, to be truly happy doing things she loves, and choosing the right friends who will not treat her this way. I just am not sure how to go about teaching her this. Any advice?
We have had these issues before for sure and I struggle through helping Abbey through them all just like you do with your daughter. Yes, I hope and pray she is confident and well-adjusted, but she is just a teenage girl too. (I don't blog the hard private stuff, or show the pics of her crying of course! :) She is growing and learning and has her bad awful no-good days, and some good ones too. I think this growing and learning part is hard for us moms, because we remember what we went through, we don't want our girls to make the same mistakes or feel the same pain. We want them to just "know" and that can't happen, darn it, they have to experience it, process it, wrestle with it all, to get there. And we get to watch and wish we could wave a magic wand, or at least get them to LISTEN to us and do exactly what we know is better for them-but that doesn't always happen.
Anyways, just know that it will be a long road during these teenage years and seems to start younger and younger, unfortunately a reflection of our culture. All it takes is ONE mean girl. All it takes is ONE jealous or insecure girl, or a girl who has never lived with kindness or been taught how to be kind-that whole queen bee thing. Add that into the need to conform, to fit in, individual insecurities-they are left with lessons left and right.
The most important thing is just to LISTEN and try not give advice unless asked. Of course, we have to help, but listening before we jump in is key. I learn that time and time again. Our girls need us as a sounding board more than anything.
The other thing-I have never ever interfered-by calling another parent, etc. I think it's so important for the girls to work it out on their own. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but that's my overall feeling and experience so far. We can't make this perfect for them, we can't take it all away or fix everything, life just doesn't work that way. There will always be a party that she didn't get invited to, a hurtful word-they have to learn how to deal with it.
I think the biggest way we can help is to use this all as an example of the golden rule. If a friend would do something that hurts Abbey, or she feels excluded, I say, "Make sure you never do that to anybody because you see how much it hurts." I say it all different ways because I have to be as gentle and sometimes as subtle as possible. I have told her to look for good honest qualities when choosing friends and get closer to those in the group that show kindness and don't talk about other girls. And gosh with all this internet crap...Facebook (although I'm told that is "out" now, thank the heavens above), Instagram, Ttwitter, etc.-can you imagine how hard that has to be, to see friends doing fun things that you weren't invited to? It's like a teenage girl's nightmare, honestly, and I think the longer they stay off of these things, the better off they are. It's definitely a "less you know, the better off" situation...until they can ease into that whole thing with some maturity.
Practically speaking-sometimes encouraging a new friendship, by trying to get her to invite a few new friends over will help her break free from an old group that aren't being kind. Some of the girls in that group may turn out to break away anyways, and come back to find a good friend.
And as your daughter grows too, it's important I think to recognize that friendships aren't perfect. There are things to accept and things to not accept for sure, but no one is perfect. But we should only let relationships change us in good ways, making us a better person, not less of who we are. Even if that means that all we get out of a betrayal is "I will never do this to someone else." It might just mean, "I will still do something special on your birthday because I know you appreciated it, even if you forgot mine" or learning to say, "I know you were just teasing me, but when you said that, it hurt my feelings", or just knowing some girls have bad days or get in ruts, or might have jealous feelings, just like all teens do.
What we want for our daughters are BIG things, that take a lifetime to learn..I love what you wrote:
How can I teach her that it doesn't matter what others think? I want her to follow her own passions and interests without worrying about popularity. I want her faith in god and family to be strong enough to sustain her through these adolescent years. I try explaining this to her, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. I know how I want my daughter to be, confident and love herself, to be truly happy doing things she loves, and choosing the right friends who will not treat her this way.
Remember, this is life, this growing up-it's HARD. Those are huge expectations, things that take a lifetime to learn! I think we all still care what others think. None of us want to be excluded from a group that we thought were our friends, and we'd be hurt also, even at our age with our experience! We would work through it, just like your daughter is probably doing, in her own way. Supporting that and finding gentle ways to console and sneak in those talks, those are the keys I think. Using examples from our own life, from our lives now, like I said, these lessons never stop. That's the hardest part of parenting teens-we can only set the foundation for these lifetime lessons, and we have only a set number of years to do it. Eventually we just get to sit back and watch and pray, pray, pray-good and bad, heartbreaking or not, as they experience life.