With the new school year in full swing, curious minds have settled into their classroom, routines have been established and the social dynamic has started to take on a personality of its own. New friendships begin to flourish, while old friendships begin to wilt. Sometimes Besties get split up into different classes and feelings of jealousy, isolation or exclusion start to emerge. Girls sometimes mourn past friendships and yearn for ‘the way things used to be.’
These changes in friendship do not always come easy for tween girls who express in GirlPower’s Back to School Butterflies workshops that their biggest worry about going back to school is this ebb and flow of friendship. Will my best friend be in my class? Will I make new friends? What if I have no friends?
To calm the butterflies and alleviate some of the stress around friendship in a new school year, here are some suggestions for the tween girl in your life:
Tip #1: Remind her of GirlPower’s Friendship Fact #4: Friendships Change and That’s Okay! Friendships change because we change. She might love One Direction now while her friend is more into Miley Cyrus now. Our interests and values change and, as a result of this, our friendships naturally change too… and that’s okay. When one friendship fades away, it leaves room for a new friendship to move in. Bringing us to our next tip…
Tip #2: Give her a reality check on the term, ‘BFF’! When girls proclaim to the world that they are Best Friends Forever, half-heart necklaces and all, they sometimes feel trapped in those friendships. (And it’s important to know that the worst Friendship Fires™ we’ve ever heard about have been between BFFs!) Tell her that just because someone was your best friend last year, does not mean they get a free ticket to be your best friend this year. You must act like a best friend and sometimes those closest, bestest friendships change. It’s important girls are told to surround themselves with healthy friendships - friendships that feel good.
Tip #3: Let her know how easy and fun making new friends can be! In GirlPower, we teach the girls a simple strategy: Find one thing in common. Asking another person questions with the end goal of finding one thing in common is a great way to trigger a new friendship. If ‘friends are flowers in the garden of life,’ then finding that commonality is like planting a seed. “Hey, have you ever rainbow loomed an ankle bracelet before? Me too! What did yours look like?”
Tip #4: Tell her, “Don’t wait for an invitation!” So often girls will wait to be invited to play at recess, wait to be invited into the game or wait to be asked to be someone’s partner. Remind her to take life into her own hands and stop waiting! Tell her to get out there and invite someone else - be the Inviter, rather than the Invitee.
Tip #5: Reinforce the importance of staying true to who she is and feeling confident within her own self. A genuine friendship can only be formed when it is rooted in trust, respect and authenticity.
Tip #6: Encourage her to extend her friendship search beyond the walls of her classroom. Too often girls will only look to create friendships with girls in their class or in their grade. It’s no secret that some kids form better connections with those either older or younger than them.
For teachers, be sure to create opportunities for girls to get to know one another. In the first months of school, designating one day a week where the students are encouraged to invite a new friend for lunch or to play is a great way to facilitate these connections. And (truth be told), for some girls, this forced opportunity provides relief if they are in a possessive friendship.
For parents, if your daughter hasn’t formed that close friendship in school, get her involved in activities outside of school. The reality is that girls form the closest friendships with those who share their passions and interests.
While making new friends can sometimes feel awkward at first, there is no greater feeling than crossing that bridge into friend zone with someone new. Amp up her friend-making skills and remind her to let her inner ‘girl power’ shine brightly!
Dana is a teacher, friendship expert, author and founder of the internationally-recognized friendship programs for tweens, GirlPower and GoodGuys. She has worked with thousands of tweens, parents and educators, and has been featured in magazines, newspapers and been a guest on numerous TV programs. To learn more about GirlPower and GoodGuys and the programs available, visit www.urstrong.com.
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