You never know exactly when it happens. It just does. From the day she started school, your daughter has always had a big circle of friends and plenty of play dates. Then, one day it just seems that she doesn’t want to be around the friends she’s had since kindergarten or you notice the invitations seemingly dry up.
You rack your brain trying to figure it out – put your finger on “what” or “when” things changed. How can you change this? What can you do? What is going on?
There’s a good chance it’s the arrival of the Mean Girls. For many of us, this is the first real wake up call that the sweet, fun and games and innocence of childhood are truly short lived. You’re at a loss. Where are those happy, giggly, fun little girls who would play for hours on end? Hosting sleep over after sleep over and swear their un-dying love for each other with the promise of being eternal BFFs?
If you’re “lucky”, they don’t show up until the latter part of elementary school (as opposed to in high school which is the time frame in the movie of the same name). But most likely, they’ve been lurking around since the ‘moms morning out’ play dates at the neighborhood park. Think back… think about the little girl who was probably the sweetest, kindest, most courteous one of the group. She’s probably a good one to start with in your mean girl “line-up”. When the MGs showed up on our doorstep, I was able to trace their arrival back to the 2nd grade. It wasn’t rampant, but the “signs” were definitely there. It can be as subtle as the MG demanding that classmates choose ‘whose friend’ you’re going to be or as obvious as forming a club that your daughter is not a member of. I’ve seen it go so far as the club being named the “Anti- fillintheblank Club”.
So, what do you do? First and foremost – resist the urge to run in to try and save the day. Nothing will add fuel to the MG’s fire quicker than Mommy showing up at the school demanding the situation be fixed. This does NOT mean that you ignore it because that’s the last thing that you should do. There have been many horrific cases of “Mean Girls Gone Wild” both locally and nationally. You must stay aware and help your daughter, but unless the situation becomes apparently dire, do it from the sidelines.
Role-playing: In our house, we found that by creating scenarios in a familiar environment, it helped our daughters to be better armed to deal with the MG’s bullying tactics. Don’t be afraid to be extreme in the scenarios. You can’t possibly fathom how brutal these girls can be. Practice them over and over. If you give your daughter the strength and comfort level to push back, believe me – she’ll rise to the occasion.
Monitor: Keep an eye on their on-line social networks. If you’re not an active participant on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., get there – NOW. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve talked to who have made a conscious decision not to be a part of these networks. If your kids are there, you need to be there and know at least the basic ins and outs of them. Cyber-bullying is the most predominant form of bullying with kids today. I don’t recommend that you actively participate IN your child’s on-line life, but you do need to be quietly lurking in the background to ensure that they aren’t being harassed there. If you see it, record it (screen shots, etc) and keep a file. If it gets to the point where you do need to step in and take action, having physical proof will help your case.
Limit: Limit the time that your daughter spends with the offending girls. You are still the parent and you do have the authority to say no. Most likely she won’t WANT to spend time with them, but if she still wants to go into that circle of fire gently steer her in the direction of a different set of friends or activities.
Support: Honestly, the best way to help the situation is simply to be there for her and help guide her through this time. We all know that these types of people exist in the real world and they’re not going away. I’ve often said that life is just High School over and over again. Different scenarios and different players, but the roles are pretty much the same all throughout our lives. If she knows that she has a safe haven to return to, that you’ll be there to listen and that she can trust you, you’ll both weather this storm a lot better.
The most important piece to all of this is awareness. If you think for one second that the abuse and bullying is getting out of hand – all bets are off. You absolutely must get involved at that point. I recommend you start with the school counselor and Principal. Every school in our area has a Zero Tolerance policy for bullying. Addressing it at this level should take care of it but be ready to take it to the next level if need be. I also recommend that you read the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. This book has provided our family with invaluable information on all things related to the tween and teen years.
Have the Mean Girls showed up in your lives yet? What tactics have you used to deal with them? Are you the parent of a Mean Girl?