Somebody’s “fat.” Somebody’s not “cool enough,” and, well, helping your girl handle means girls is hard. The treacherous waters of mean girls is very real, and your girl may suffer because of it. According to Katie Hurley, author of No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls, (TarcherPerigree; 2018), the severity of mean-girl bullying puts the girls at the receiving end into a high-risk category for mental-health issues.
Mean-girl behaviors start younger than they used to, Hurley says. It used to be the domain of teenage girls, but today, approximately six percent of girls experience it daily between the ages of 8 and 16. It happens in person, and it happens on social media, too.
The most common ways girls get hurt is through teasing, exclusion and calling them out for their differences, Hurley says. Differences can be about being taller or shorter or even about things like having freckles or wearing the “wrong” outfit. It may not be fair, but it’s the way it is. Your girl needs to know how to handle it.
Helping Your Girl Handle Mean Girls
#1 Don’t Attack
First, avoid being triggered into a Mama Bear with her claws out. Remember, you are here to help your girl. Stay calm.
#2 Help Her Develop Resiliency
It’s hard, but your girl will be faced with social challenges her entire life. She needs to learn how to be resilient, says Rachel Simmons, author of the national bestseller, Odd Girl Out (Mariner; 2011). Strife between your daughter and other girls can be hard to witness, Simmons says, but to the extent that you can, let it be a learning experience. When you know your daughter’s hurting, aim to gently open the dialogue — and listen more than talk.
#3 Is it Bickering or Bullying?
Not everything is bullying. Girls — and let’s face it, everyone — can be snarky. What your daughter is dealing with may be ordinary conflict. Be sure you get enough information about what’s going on before taking steps.
#4 Validate Your Girl’s Feelings
You may be at a loss when you discover your girl hurting, but don’t play her feelings down. Let her know you understand and even let her know about experiences you’ve had with mean girls. Help her to brainstorm solutions, Simmons say. In fact, push for solutions.
#5 Teach the Importance of Friendship
Sometimes the girl being mean is someone your girl thought was a friend. Encourage your daughter to branch out toward healthier friendships filled with solid support. Talk about what that means. Many girls can change friend groups as they get older and realize what they want. Her your girl develop the ability to spot “frenemies” over true friends. This conversation needs to happen with your girl and be an ongoing one.
Finally, stay in daily contact with your girl as days and situations progress. If you ever feel like you are not able to handle what she’s dealing with, don’t be afraid to reach for outside help. Mean behavior is unacceptable but it is an unfortunate part of growing up. Do everything you can to help your girl cope with it by sharing strategies together.