Episode 40: Girl Friendships without the Drama

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Annie Fox, a writer who is a teen expert, about girls’ friendships without the drama.  Fox has answered over 40,000 emails regarding teen relationships.

We jump right in and discuss how we can help our daughters develop positive relationships with other girls.  Fox feels that it is important to define what a real friend is, and this depends on what your daughter needs and wants.  We also want to let them know that friendship is a two way street.  They need to have standards in their friendships, and have the tools and courage to speak up when something isn’t adding up.

Fox says the most common theme of the e-mails she receives is “Why is my friend not acting like a friend”?  This requires a thoughtful response.  Fox starts by asking what the friend is doing that does not feel like something a friend would do.  Then she asks them what their options are to change the dynamic.  Fox explains that often girls feel that because their friend is changing, they are not enough and may need to change with the friend, but sometimes you need to let go of a friendship because it doesn’t fit them anymore.  When this happens, girls need to know that they can move apart from the friend without creating a battlefield between them and becoming enemies.  Fox mentions she often hears from mothers who are best friends whose daughters were best friends but are drifting apart.  Fox explains that the only thing you need to say is, “I’ve noticed when our girls get together that they do not bring out the best in each other.  Maybe they need a vacation.”  This does not put blame on either child.

We change gears and talk about how a parent can step back and let their daughter navigate her friendships on her own.  Fox feels that it goes back to the standards they set for their friendships.  She recommends being an observer of what is going on instead of a manager (i.e. setting up playdates as your daughter gets older).  As you observe, you can then play the role of journalist when you are alone with her.  You can tell her what you’ve observed and ask how it feels for her to be a friend with anyone in question.  Ultimately, you want your daughter to be able to say for herself that she is not comfortable with the friend.  Fox advises that it does not have to be all or nothing.  If your daughter is with this particular friend all the time, maybe they need to step back and spend less time together.

We next discuss what happens when the friendship goes into a negative territory.  Fox first explains that often kids who are labeled as “bullies” report that they were first harassed in some way.  If you are noticing as a parent that your daughter seems to be withdrawing and giving less information about a particular friend, she comes away from social media in a bad mood, she is snapping at you as a parent or other siblings, or suddenly not wanting to go to school or activities she usually loves, this is worrisome and worthy of a conversation.  If you are observing your daughter talking about a particular friend in a bad way, this is also worthy of a conversation.  Let them know what you have noticed and ask about the behavior.  If your daughter did something that you don’t approve of toward a friend and you have evidence that she did it, you can ask her what she did.  She may start saying that the friend is annoying or did something else that she did not like.  As a parent, you have to let her know that her feelings are important, but not as important as your behavior.  Then you have to let her know she needs to make amends.  You can ask her, “If a friend did this to you, what would you need from her to let go of your hurt feelings?”  

We further discussed what to do if you find out from someone else (the school, another parent, another kid, etc), that your child has been antagonistic and targeting others.  Fox explains that the first thing you need to do is take a slow, deep breath because as a mother, your first instinct when someone speaks negatively about your child is to attack and discredit the person who made the accusation.  You can then make sure the person you are talking to has clear evidence–not just hearsay.  Screenshots or a whole thread of texts are an example.  You then go to your daughter and go through the same cycle as mentioned previously.  It is best to let your daughter know that she will feel these feelings, like jealousy, resentment, guilt, and betrayal, again and again, and that what she did in the face of these emotions was not a good choice.  Then you can let her know that she needs to have some other options ready since what she did in response this time was not acceptable.  Part of growing up is learning to manage these emotions so that no one gets hurt.  

As a parent, you need to create the safe space so that your child feels that they can discuss these things with you.  To keep the channel open, it’s good to get into the habit of discussing your day with your kids at the end of the day to model how they can share their day with you.  As they grow older, they may even look forward to being able to share their happenings with you.  It may be edited, but you should take whatever you can get.  As a parent, you are a big influencer on your children, so your feedback is important.  The manner in which we resolve conflicts is important, so it is important to keep your emotions in check.  If you can’t, you can let them know that you didn’t feel good about how you acted.  

Finally, we discuss the current climate of television or public figures’ behavior.  It’s important to show that just because a certain person is doing something and getting away with it, this does not make the behavior okay.  You cannot shield your children from it, so you can use it to teach them.  Fox mentions a quote, “The only thing necessary for evil or meanness to happen in the world is for good people to stay silent.”  When the political and social climate emboldens people to feel rude and disrespectful, it is important for our kids to have courage and speak up for themselves or others, or take it further and go to an adult.  Fox mentions that she does workshops with girl scouts and breaks it down to being helpful or not helpful.  By being silent, girls miss the opportunity to be helpful.



Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, family coach and trusted online adviser for teens. Her life’s work is helping youth effectively manage their relationships and emotions so they can feel confident in who they are.  Fox is well-known for her e-mail service where she responds to emails from teens as “Terra” regarding friendships, relationships, and parents.  She holds a Master’s in Education from the State University of New York at Cortland and her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies is from Cornell University.



WEBSITE: http://www.anniefox.com/

PODCAST: http://familyconfidential.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Annie.Fox.author

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnnieLFox

EMAIL: http://www.anniefox.com/teens/ask.html


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