Girl friendships: Is there a secret language?

Girls, girls, girls! When your daughter was first born, you may have pictured her growing up with good friends, always having fun while playing endlessly for hours. Fast forward a few years and you get hit with a reality check – it’s nothing like that at all! You find yourself navigating your own emotions as you watch your daughter struggle to understand her friends and her friendships.

You see, it is often the ones closest to them that can exclude, whisper, gossip and ignore them. But how can this be? How can it be that the girls she considers to be her friends and who she plays with all the time are hurting her the most?

At times, for some reason, or most likely for no reason at all,  a group of girl friends excludes one of their own. I don’t even know if girls recognize it as dysfunctional. It’s not even always the same girl being excluded within the group, but it can be so devastating for the girl who is left out.

Perhaps the girls go to a friend’s house, but don’t invite your daughter.  Maybe they hide from her at lunch. Maybe they just say they don’t want to hang out with her today.  It could be many things – either way, it hurts.

This is not a normal part of good friendships, so why do girls accept this?

Recognizing healthy and unhealthy friendships

We need to educate our girls from an early age, not only about what it means to be a good friend, but also to recognize and understand healthy and unhealthy friendships.

My first reaction when my daughter was younger was to dismiss it and simply say, “Then don’t hang around with those girls!” It wasn’t that easy for her, as these were the girls she considered to be her friends, so I took a new strategy. Instead, we talked about everything that makes a good friend. This way she could learn how to be a good friend to others and know when someone is being a good friend to her.

Friendship qualities you can discuss with your daughters include:

  • girls together_000064734355_SmallFriends give compliments, are good listeners, apologize and are honest.
  • Friends invite others to play, take turns, share things and do things the way their friends want to, from time to time.
  • Friends do favours and stand up for each other.
  • They encourage each other, offer help, support and talk about important things in their lives.
  • They also play games by the rules and are a good sport if they lose.

You can also continue to build your daughters self-esteem. Girls with high self-esteem will not feel like they have to put others down to feel good about themselves and will be able to better cope at school and in life.

However, if you daughter does find herself with these types of challenging friendships, teach her to be assertive. Have her use “I” statements such as “I felt left out when you didn’t invite me.” Also, have your daughter use positive self talk like, “I can do this!” so that she can feel confident when dealing with these situations.

When all is said and done, you can’t change someone else’s behaviour. The good news is that your daughter will be well-equipped to know what a good friend is and can work through these friendship challenges. So start these conversations early on with your daughters and it will help her learn to have positive, long lasting friendships.

Share with us your thoughts and comments.

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for almost 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 10 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my teen son & pre-teen daughter with my hubby in Halton.
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