Girl friendships and more

I love the PBS websites for kids and parents. Parents can search for books on many topics such as empowering books for girls and the best books for boys, read about the best ways to help their children through the grieving process when a pet or other loved one dies, learn what’s typical for social/emotional development at different ages, and recognize milestones in their children’s development related to technology and media.

Recently I read this PBS article about girl friendships, and I strongly urge you to read it when you have time. I have seen difficulty with the girls in our middle grades when it comes to forming/maintaining healthy, happy friendships. The forming of groups is normal; girls find common interests and enjoy getting to know each other through sports and play. Problems happen when the groups become competitive and exclusionary. Classroom teachers encourage discussions during morning meetings and at appropriate times during the day about social relationships, and I am also a resource for all students. I receive many notes in the mailbox outside of my office door from girls asking to discuss their current “friendship drama.” The girls’ feelings are hurt, they feel that an injustice has occurred, and frequently the problem happened on the playground. Girls walk away from each other, rolling their eyes and linking arms with friends in their group. Sometimes unkind words are said. Although these behaviors are typical for girls at this age, they cannot be accepted.

I encourage the students to talk TO each other in a fair, open, kind conversation instead of about each other. Sometimes a group discussion works well, and other times a one-on-one dialogue between two peers is the quietest and easiest way to get to the bottom of what’s happening Also, all of our Love Hall Wildcats received multiple lessons in the fall about empathy through their Second Step classroom lessons and the community celebration, reinforced in our school counseling lessons in Pre-First through Second Grade classes. What does it feel like to walk in someone else’s shoes? How do you imagine your classmate feels when you tell her she can’t play? How would you feel if someone rolled her eyes at you? Girls must stop and take the time to think carefully about who they want to be, decide what kind of reputation they want to have, assertively stand up for themselves, and simultaneously stand up for others when they observe unkind behaviors or hear unkind words. It’s tough work, but our students are so capable!

I also encourage the girls to talk about their feelings with their parents. Great conversation-starters can come from books, and a great resource for helpful books is the American Girl bookstore. There’s a book called The Feelings Book: The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions that has received praise from parents. Also, in the recent “Changes: Moving into the Teen Years” talk with the Fifth Grade girls, almost all of the students raised their hand when asked if they owned a copy of The Care and Keeping of You.

And as always, the media plays a big role in showing young girls how they’re “supposed” to behave (which is where Common Sense Media comes in handy).

Do you have suggestions for helping girls navigate successfully through elementary school? What has worked well in your family? Thank you for commenting or emailing me!


One response to “Girl friendships and more”

  1. cajuncart says :

    Amen, Lady Strother, amen. And thank you! We Middle Schoolers need help in this department, too! The earlier the honest, face-to-face conversations can begin, the better. I think, too, that technology complicates and muddies these waters even more, and that needs to be addressed. As children seem to become more and more savvy with phones, etc. (this is a whole separate issue…are we creating a “need” that’s not really a need?), we have a responsibility to remind them that those realms, while seemingly more subtle and hidden, are not separate. Kindness should rule there, too.

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