It can be heart-wrenching for moms to deal with the inevitable tears that most middle school girls will experience upon encountering mean girls. Sadly, it is a part of life. I recall my middle school years, when my best friend of seven years dumped me like a sack of potatoes for "cooler girls" because they could date (I could not) and they wore designer jeans, etc. Although those first few days (weeks) were extremely difficult, I survived and lived to talk about it.
Parenting doesn't come with a manual. However, I have found that if a solution works, we should share it to help others. Here are a few successful strategies that I have shared with my clients and have used in my own life:
1. Share your story with your daughter. Tell her what happened to you when you experienced the same rejection, mean-spiritedness and isolation. Our girls need to know that they aren't alone, and aren't the first ones in history to be hurt by a friend or group of girls. Moms can focus so much attention on consoling their daughters' pain that they feed their struggles instead of empowering their girls with the wisdom and truth of their own personal journey. Explain to them how much you also cried. Tell your girls how you didn't want to go in the cafeteria where all the other girls were, how you learned you could get through it, and that it got easier.
2. Help your daughter expand her world by teaching her about the importance of building friendships in different areas of her life. Maybe she can establish some friendships from her neighborhood, and others from camp and extracurricular activities like dance, lacrosse or art classes. This is a great opportunity to help your daughter understand that friendships are like rainbows and that they come in many shades, hues and colors.
3. Role play. Help your daughter find her voice and the language to set boundaries with mean girls. It isn't easy to deal with difficult circumstances but it is even more difficult to not know the power of your voice (verbal/non-verbal). You might say to your daughter, "Not every comment needs a response." This will help her understand that she doesn't have to prove her worthiness to anyone, and that giving no response takes away the offender's power.
4. Be available and attentive in the early days. Sometimes your daughter won't say a word but her demeanor will help you understand what she needs most. On those rough days, give her a big hug, present her with a journal, and most importantly don't fix it for her (unless the circumstances are extreme) because failing and falling are an important part of growing up.
The parenting road can be bumpy at times, but I have never felt it was my responsibility to save my children from those bruises. Instead, I believe my role is to help them learn how to navigate the good and the bad in their lives. I hope that this inspires other moms to do the same.