If your daughter is between 10 and 17, chances are she’ll need your help to navigate the often cruel world of pre-teen and teen girls. According to Rachel Simmons, author of the national bestseller, Odd Girl Out (Mariner Books), finding the right words includes being aware of what not to say:
1. “This is the way girls are.” Generalizing about a group of people never sets a positive example. This also implies that your daughter should give up the joys and comfort of female friendship. Better to ask her if she knows that there is research showing why some girls act this way when they get angry. “Explain how many girls are denied permission to express anger, jealousy, and competitiveness openly and how that affects the way girls express themselves,” Simmons writes.
2. “She’s just jealous.” A favorite response of parents, this does not resonate with victimized girls. A better response is, “Why do you think she’s doing this?” While your daughter’s first response may be the unhelpful “Because she hates me,” gently pushing her to consider problems the other girl may have will help your daughter recognize brokenness in the other person.
3. “It happens to everyone, honey.” This remark trivializes your daughter’s pain, Simmons says. While it may be true, it doesn’t recognize that for your daughter, this experience is a first taste of emotional pain. Better to say, “That is terrible. I’m so sorry.” Meanness may be common, but that doesn’t make it less terrible. It’s after you acknowledge her pain that you can explain how she is not alone.
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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