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Why Teen Popularity May Be Miserable

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Dear Dr. G.,

My teen daughter is starting high school next week and I want her to be popular. I want her to have her choice of girlfriends and boys. You see, I was a real shrinking violet in high school and I hated that. It was really painful to rarely be invited to parties or on dates. My parents were not very social so I guess I learned it from them. They also never bought me the trendy clothing that the other girls were wearing so I never really had a chance with the popular kids. I didn't get invited to either the junior or senior prom and I don't want this for my daughter.

I have tried to befriend the mothers of some of the popular girls in an effort to help my daughter get closer to their kids. I'm also buying my daughter trendy clothes so that she fits in with the most popular groups. I am not going to hold her back from parties because I know how lousy it feels to sit home alone on the weekends.

Dr. G., do you have any other tips to help my daughter fit in with the happy and popular kids? Please get back to me soon. School starts next week.

-A Worried Mother

Dear Mother,

Slow down, please. You have to remember that you and your daughter are two different people. You want her to be popular but this may not be what she wants for herself. Please don't confuse your teen years with hers.

There is nothing magical about popularity. In fact, popularity is often synonymous with exclusivity. Do you really want your daughter to chase after the popular kids who often turn on each other and often maintain their popularity by excluding and intimidating other kids? The research and my clinical experience with teens shows that teens do best when they have a few good and solid friends -- NOT when they are hanging out with tightly-knit groups of girls who label themselves as popular.

I think that you should encourage your daughter to make a few good and solid friends. This will be much more beneficial to her than chasing after the often elusive popular kids. And remember: Popularity is often here one day and gone the next.

You are working way too hard. You do not need to befriend the mothers of the popular girls. Also, let your daughter develop her own style, which may or may not include trendy clothing. Think twice about letting her go to all of the parties. Her safety is much more important than being at all of the parties. You don't want to push your daughter toward early drinking and sexual activity.

I suggest that you get to know your daughter better and support her needs. Please don't impose an agenda and life plan on her. Although I am sure you are doing this out of love, it is likely to backfire and your daughter may begin to resent you.

Good Luck,

Dr. G.