How to Talk to Girls about Drama-Free Friendships

It’s Women’s History Month- a great time to discuss relationships between girls. The podcast provides information about girls and their friendships. What does it mean to have a great friend? What does it mean to be a good friend? And what can we do to help girls when their friendships get complicated, stressed or overwhelming? Our guest, Annie Fox, helps us navigate girls’ friendships with tips and scripts for every parent or concerned adult.

Special Guest: Annie Fox

Annie Fox is an Award winning writer, app developer and Educator Focusing on Social-Emotional learning and character development. Annie aims to teach kids to be good people because we need more good people. We are all villagers, so it’s up to us. Some of her books include: Teaching Kids to Be Good PeopleToo Stressed to Think?, the Middle School Confidential book and app seriesand the Raymond and Sheila picture books series. Annie’s latest book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, offers 8-12 year old girls (and their parents/teachers) 50 ways to fix a friendship without the DRAMA. And that topic, talking to girls about friendship, is what lands her on the show today and we couldn’t be more excited.

Girls and friendship. For some, this topic makes them smile and think of the most endearing, close, meaningful relationships of their lives. For others, it makes them sweat and feel a little sick. Maybe it’s a little bit of both!

There has been quite a lot of research on same-sex friendships- but perhaps the most renowned study was done by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2009—researchers looked inside the brains of children ages 8-17 to assess the responses to potential friendship opportunities. The results showed that the way girls responded to the anticipation of making a friend was quite different than the response of boys. In particular, Various areas of girls’ brains (the ones associated with reward, hormone secretion, social learning, and subjective feelings) lit up like crazy with the prospect of a new friendship. Boys? Virtually no activity. Some had decreased activity at the prospect of a new friendship. Friendships are clearly VERY important to girls! Now- that doesn’t always make it easy. When we really care about something or someone, we can get very invested—we can reap joy but we can also feel pain. And one of the things we continually hear about when it comes to girls and friendships is the drama that can come along with them. That’s why we have my friend, Annie Fox, on the show today.

  • Tips: What to do when the girls in your life are having friendship issues, how to choose the right friends, how to be her own best friend,
  • The importance of demonstrating empathy, respect and compassion in your relationships if you want your child to adopt these ways of interacting.
  • Scripts: What to say to your child when a friend of your child is not the kind of person you’d like your child to be around due to the friend’s behavior.
  • How girls can have such high intelligence when it comes to how to cope with friendships (when other people are having problems) but have great difficultly dealing with their own friendships when they are in the middle of them.
  • Information about “the breathing challenge.”
  • How to develop a set of standards about friends- real vs “the other kind.”
  • How to expose your daughter to other friendship groups.

Important Messages:

  • Girls’ friendships can feel very intense and intimate—almost like love relationships. So when they are challenged or compromised, it can feel like a real threat.
  • Social media adds a layer to these friendships- instead of the bell ringing and each girl going home, thinking about the problem, cooling down and moving on, social media keeps issues fresh and can make them more problematic. The bell rings, the texting begins. This takes away room to process and calm down.
  • We must learn to listen- given that texts and social media is all about split-second back and forth conversations in which nobody is really listening- it’s vital that parents, teachers and coaches learn to listen.
  • Don’t put-down your daughter’s bestie as you will likely be shutdown. Ask your daughter what it’s like to be with her friend if you are seeing some problematic behavior. You may be surprised by what she says. 
  • We have to teach girls to calm down so that they can think more clearly about friendships while they are coping with frustrations.
  • We can’t always protect our girls from bad friendships.

Notable Quotables:

  • “When the bell rings, the texting begins. The recruiting others to ‘my side’ of the feud, getting people to pile on, to show loyalty…this takes away our opportunity as individuals to process, reflect and to cool down. Kids nowadays have very little time to just take a deep breath, get their hands off of the keyboard, and disengage from the drama so that they can come back to the decision-making in a more mature way.”
  • “Social media hasn’t caused problems in friendship but has taken away opportunities to solve problems more effectively.”
  • “When your daughter is clearly upset about what is going on that is taking place in the device in her hand, you would do very well to advise her to take her hands off of the keyboard.”
  • “Just listen to your daughter. That’s such a rare thing when kids are constantly engaged in this split-second repartee via text. Nobody is really listening. Let her talk about her feelings without interrupting will let her release some of that intensity that makes everything feel like such an emergency.”
  • “You’ve got to walk the walk. If you prioritize your daughter becoming a person who is empathetic, compassionate and a good friend, then you need to show her by your example that you treat her and all the people in your life with that kind of compassion, empathy and respect.”
  • “Make it very clear to your daughter that she needs to be her own best friend first.”
  • “When our kids are hurting, it hurts us.”
  • “Girls often fall into friendships like we fall into romances. Sometimes it works out and sometimes you may find out that this person you initially you were just crazy about really has a lot of character traits and values that don’t mesh well with yours so it’s not a good match. Because girls become so invested and they don’t have the breadth of friendships or the life experience, they tend to hang onto friendships where we would have just said, ‘I’m sorry but this just isn’t working.’ They come from a scarcity and think ‘I may not have another best friend.’”
  • “Friendship is a two-way street. So if this is what you are saying you expect ‘from people I call my friends,’ what can other people expect of you in friendship? How do you rate yourself on these characteristics?”
  • “You don’t have to go into emergency mode when your friend is having a bad day. You owe it to her and to yourself and to the friendship to find out what’s going on if she is no longer being kind and respectful.”