Navigating a tween daughter through her friendships can sometimes make me look back at toddler playdates as so much easier. We were right there and we could intercept the struggle for the same toy or help them climb and slide next to their playground buddies. Plus, most things could be solved with a good snack or a long nap.
The friend issues for our tween daughters are more complicated. We usually only hear our daughter’s side of the story and it’s often accompanied by a host of emotions. Sometimes we have to be a noticer – sense when something’s off and then probe with gentle questions.
It’s so important for us to teach our tween girls how to handle friendships. The tween years are full of change that create sticky friendship issues. Let’s look at 5 friend issues your tween daughter will encounter and how to help navigate through them.
1. Your tween discovers her friend shared her secret.
Your daughter feels betrayed, hurt, and angry. She may be embarrassed that others now know something so personal about her. Don’t dismiss these emotions, even if the shared secret seems childish. Talk about the importance of integrity and keeping confidences. Suggest that she talk to her friend after she’s fully processed her emotion. And finally, caution her about sharing with this friend again, reminding her that she has control over what she shares and what she doesn’t.
2. Your tween’s friend wants to exclude another girl.
Tweens often enjoy the camaraderie of a club and don’t realize how hurtful it is to be excluded. This is an opportunity to help your daughter develop compassion by seeing it from the excluded girl’s point of view. How can she maintain a friendship with one while including the other? Suggest she lead by example by inviting the excluded girl to eat at their lunch table or join their circles of conversation.
3. Your tween is the new girl.
Walking into a new situation or new place is just plain hard. Giving your tween daughter tools now will help her all through life. I’ve heard it said that most people enter a room and think, “Here I am!” That kind of self-focus makes being the new girl even harder. Instead, teach your tween to enter the room thinking, “There you are!” Being other-oriented will help our girls to start conversation or even find someone else who’s new and needs a friend.
4. Your tween’s friend makes an uncomfortable (or unsafe!) dare.
The old truth or dare game often goes too far. Prepare your tween in advance for this one. It’s okay and right to say no when a dare is inappropriate or unsafe. Assure your daughter the most courageous thing she can do is to stand alone in the face of peer pressure to do something she doesn’t want to do. Give her words beforehand so she can say no to any dare with confidence.
Assure your daughter the most courageous thing she can do is to stand alone in the face of peer pressure to do something she doesn’t want to do.
5. You see red flags with the friendship.
Sometimes our tweens may not come to us with a specific issue but we begin to see red flags in the friendship. Maybe you notice your daughter’s personality changes after time with the friend or she bottles up and won’t talk about time with this friend.
This happened with my own tween. She began asking sensitive questions one afternoon and as we talked openly, she burst into tears. She’d felt uncomfortable with peer pressure in a blossoming friendship, had felt trapped and now felt guilty for being in the situation. Surprisingly though, a few weeks later she began asking to see this friend. I knew the friendship was unhealthy, and I said a gentle but firm no. As moms, we need to create healthy boundaries in friendship for our tween daughters when we see red flags. Here’s an easy hands-on illustration to teach your tween how to choose good friends.
What other ways are you encouraging your tween daughter in difficult friendships?