Q: “Any suggestions for my 13-year-old on how to deal with catty girls at school? She has been through several groups of girlfriends and has yet to find someone she can trust. She has one best friend from outside of school, but continues to have problems with the girls at her school.”
C.R., Albany, California
As a middle school teacher, I see this unfortunate sight every day—girls harassing other girls while more students stand by. At our school we have taken steps to deal with what we call “girl mess.” I suggest that you talk to a teacher your daughter likes and see if she/he has any suggestions. A teacher may know another student who is feeling the same way and can pair them up when they otherwise might not have noticed each other. The school should also be working on creating a more supportive environment for all students. We have, on many occasions, held “girls only” assemblies to discuss how to feel good about yourself without putting others down.
T.C., Sacramento, California
My daughter, 12, also recently experienced some mean-spirited girls in middle school. I suggested that she discuss with me, or her guidance counselor, ways in which she could deal with these incidents. Since I have already experienced similar situations, I was able to provide some insight as to why these things might be happening. I also let her know that it does get better in high school. Guidance counselors are also trained in this field and are well aware of the behavior of children in this age group. Let your daughter know that it’s okay to pop in for a talk with the guidance counselor to discuss these things confidentially.
S.L.H., Syracuse, New York
My daughter is a sixth grader at a very small school (seven girls in her class). Her best friend is in the fifth grade at the same school. The dynamics in my daughter’s class are such that from day to day it’s hard to know who is speaking to whom! I am amazed at how vicious some of these girls can be—and I really think that sometimes they are unaware of how hurtful their words and actions are. I make sure that my daughter knows she is loved for who she is, and that she should focus on the things that make her special, rather than on what others say about her. We plan outings for her and her best friend, and we enroll her in outside activities where she can meet other girls who share her interests. She and I also spend time together, which gives her the chance to talk about what’s going on at school. She still needs to deal with her classmates, of course, but I encourage her not to join in the gossip. I praise her for respecting the feelings of others, and let her know that I trust her to do what’s right. I also use myself as an example—as an adult, I am still friends with people I met in high school and college, but have no contact with anyone from elementary school.
D.P., Ossining, New York
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