Young or not-so-young, relationships with other girls can be complicated, especially between the ages of 8-12. This brand-new book, The Girls’ Q & A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the Drama by parenting and teen expert Annie Fox offers answers to the common dilemmas that teen girls are faced with today, like what to do when a friend violates your privacy through social media or uses it to turn other girls against you. Below are the top 5 “complicated friendship” questions we asked Annie. Enjoy!
Q1: A girl in my class took a picture of a text I sent her and posted it on Facebook. It was about another girl in our class and now that girl hates me and is turning other girls against me. I know it wasn’t nice of me to talk behind her back but now I don’t know what to do to get them to stop. Should I ignore it or should I talk to her or all of them?
Annie: It’s good that you now realize what a mistake it was to try to hurt Girl A. By texting Girl B, you added to the “social garbage” (gossip, rumors, put-downs, bullying, etc. No school needs more social garbage! You owe Girl A a sincere apology. While you’re at it, you might explain why you were feeling so unfriendly toward her. Ask her what you can do to make up for the trouble you caused. (This may an uncomfortable conversation, but sometimes, when we intentionally hurt other people, it helps us learn to do better next time if we have to experience some uncomfortable feelings).
As for Girl B (the one who took a picture of the text you sent her and posted it on FB) she also made a mistake by creating more social garbage and drama. I suggest you have a conversation with her, too. You might say something like this, “I know I shouldn’t have texted that stuff to you about Girl A, but why did you post it?” Then close your mouth and listen to what she has to say.
Q2. Two boys in my science class make fun of me about how I walk. I try not letting it bother me, but yesterday they walked into science class pretending to walk like me and then told everyone that’s how I walked. The whole class started laughing and now I feel really embarrassed and don’t want to even be in that class. I want to tell the teacher but I don’t want to be accused of being a tattle-tale. What should I do?
Annie: What those boys did was rude, disrespectful and totally insensitive (not caring about someone else’s feelings.) The other kids who laughed along with them were also being rude. You know, first hand, how much it hurts to have people make fun of you. I hope you never do that to anyone.
If the science teacher wasn’t in the classroom when this happen (or if he/she was in class but didn’t call out the boys for their disrespectful behavior) you definitely should talk to the teacher. Many kids have the mistaken idea that it is “tattling” when you stand up for yourself and tell a that someone has been disrespectful. It is not “tattling”! In fact, when you stand up for yourself, you are being brave. You are sending a message that says, “I respect myself and I will not stay silent when people are rude to me.” You say that you feel really embarrassed. Tell me, what did you do that you ought to be embarrassed about? The way you walk is the way you walk. Nothing to be embarrassed about that! It is those two boys who ought to be embarrassed of their behavior. And anyone who joined in on their rudeness should also be embarrassed. Not you.
If you talk to the teacher and this rudeness continues, please talk to your parents and tell them what’s going on. The only way that teasing and harassment stops, is when parents, teachers, and school administrators let the teasers know, “This is not ok and you will stop it now.”
Q3. After telling a girl at my school that I liked a boy in my class that I like him, she told him. She had promised not to tell anyone. Now I feel awkward around him and his friends and mostly want to be invisible around him. I’m mad at the girl for telling him and I don’t want to be her friend anymore. How do I handle this?
Annie: One of the most important parts of a friendship is trust. If you trust your friend, and she trusts you, then you both know you can count on each other to be supportive, caring, respectful. You trusted your friend to keep her promise. For whatever reason she broke that promise. It is understandable that you are angry. You don’t trust her and it makes perfect sense that you don’t want to count on her as a friend any more. But wouldn’t you like to know why she promised not to tell and then broke that promise? I would! I suggest you have a private face-to-face conversation with this girl. Make sure you are in a quiet place where you can talk without interruption. You don’t need an audience, that only creates more drama. When the two of you are alone, you might say something like this: “I’m very upset you broke your promise not to tell ______ that I like him. Why did you do that?” Then be quiet, stay calm, and let her answer the question. This is how we communicate in a friendship. We let people know how we feel and we give them a turn to explain their side of the story.
As for feeling “awkward” around the boys… obviously what your friend told your crush can’t be taken back. Now he knows you like him. Maybe that will turn out to be a good thing! It’s possible. Here’s something you can try to make you feel less awkward and more powerful: The next time you see them, take some slow deep breaths and say to yourself, “He knows I like him. Liking someone isn’t a bad thing. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m going to hold my head up, be confident, and smile.”
Good luck! I hope this helps.
Q4. I invited my friend to my house because her parents are divorced and she doesn’t get to see her Mom much and her Dad works a lot, so she spends a lot of time alone. At first we had fun when she came over but she is growing close to my Mom and now I feel jealous when my Mom pays a lot of attention to her. How do I stop feeling jealous?
Annie: When we feel “jealous” it sometimes comes from a mistaken belief that if someone gets more attention than we do, it means they are loved more than we are. It sounds like you need reassurance from your mom that she loves you. Please talk to your mom about that. It’s an important conversation to have. The other thing you can do, inside yourself, to stop feeling jealous, is to try to take your friend’s point of view. Imagine how close you are to your mom. Imagine what it would feel like not to be able to see your mom much at all. Imagine what it would feel like to spend so much time alone because your dad is away at work a lot. When you imagine yourself in that situation, how does it make you feel? (Sad? Lonely? Scared? Unloved?) This is some of what your friend may be feeling. She needs to know that there are people who care about her. Your mom is just trying to help her during this time. In what ways could you help your friend, too? Think about it.
Q5: A new girl in my class brings a dill pickle wrapped in tin foil to lunch every day and chooses which girl she wants to give it to. All of the girls in my class try to be her BFF so they will get the pickle. Even though I know it’s a weird way to get friends, I find myself trying to get the pickle. Is this wrong?
Annie: No, it’s not wrong to try to be this girl’s friend. You want her to like you. Everyone wants to be like. This new girl wants to be liked too! Because she just came to your school and hasn’t had much time to make close friends, she may be feeling that she has to “pay” people to be her BFF for the day. That’s what she’s trying to do with the dill pickle. Maybe she isn’t sure anyone would like her or pay attention to her if she didn’t have this little “contest” everyday at lunch.
You are a smart girl and you already know that when someone is really your friend, they are your friend because they like you, not because you gave them a treat! If you really want to be this girl’s friend you should talk to her about friendship. You might say something like this, “You’re a nice girl and I’d like to be your friend. I’m sure other girls would too. You don’t have to give away a pickle every day to get friends. All you have to do is be yourself.”
Even if she doesn’t say anything or she pretends she doesn’t understand, you’ve given her something important to think about.
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.