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Surviving Middle School

Keep reading if you have a daughter in late elementary and high school. I promise you will relate to this article somehow, in shape or form.

It’s always been obvious that the friend vibe has drastically differed between my daughter and my son. My son, now a freshman, has had the same friends (with a few additions) since kindergarten. I don’t think he’s ever gotten into a fight with any of them. I”m sure they get irritated with each other. Rather than getting into an argument, I think they just avoid talking to each other for a few days and then go on with their lives.

Girlfriend Groups

And then there are the girlfriend groups. Let me tell you, navigating this stage is not for the weary. When I was growing up, if someone didn’t like me, they would tell me to my face. Or tell a friend who would eventually tell you.

In 2023, preteens and teens have a million different ways to tell you they don’t like you. And it’s much easier to say mean, cutting words when you have the safety of a phone screen between you and your target. It’s also possible to find out immediately that you’ve been excluded from hanging out with friends. Gone are the days when you would see a physical picture a couple of weeks after your friends had gotten together without you. Now all kids need to do is hop on their social media outlet of choice (or Life 360) and immediately notice they are the only friend missing from a gathering.

Becoming Popular

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard my daughter and another friend talking about how people say the best way to become popular is to be mean to others.

Wait. WHAT? Is this really what girls think? First of all, why? Are they seeing this at home? On TV? Online? I’ve thought about this a lot over the past couple of weeks, and I still cannot wrap my mind around it.

This phase of parenting is perhaps the most difficult so far. Your mama bear wants to pick up the phone and share screenshots of texts with parents. Or tell your child they simply cannot hang out with the other child in question. (Spoiler alert – this will put your child in an impossible situation). 

You’re also being pulled toward wanting them to navigate these waters on their own. As a mama, we cannot fix everything, and sometimes our kiddos need to learn these lessons independently. Even though it is SO HARD to stand by while their hearts break into a million pieces at the hands of their “friends.”

Provide Advice

So what do we do? We provide advice. Advice that hopefully will take them through middle school relationships, high school relationships, and possibly even adult relationships.

If you’re navigating this phase of parenting, I’d like to share some of the pieces of advice that I find myself sharing with my daughter more than I would have ever imagined.

  1. Be nice to people. Period. You will be left out, and people will hurt your feelings. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes it will be an accident. Remember how that feels, and try your hardest not to make others feel that way. 
  2. You (and your friends) hear me say this quite often, but I cannot say it enough. Hurt people hurt people. If someone makes you feel bad, it says more about how they feel about themselves than it says about you. 
  3. At the same time, give people grace. We never know what people are going through. Whether it’s within the four walls of their home or inside of their head. Sometimes your closest friends are dealing with things that you will never know or understand. It’s not necessarily your job to take on their burdens, but it is your job to be a good friend.
  4. Know when enough is enough. Sometimes you will need to walk away from a friendship. I’ve done this even in my thirties. It will be gut-wrenching and, in some ways, worse than a breakup. At the end of the day, some friendships just are not worth it. Decide what you are willing to endure and hold yourself accountable personally.
  5. Choose quality over quantity. As an adult, I’ve come to realize it is more important for me to have a small circle of friends who I can count on than a huge group of acquaintances. Of course, I want you to be kind to everyone you encounter, but it doesn’t mean you need to be friends with everyone.

At the end of the day, it’s simple. Just be the kind of friend you would want to be friends with.

My last piece of advice is for the parents. It is perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give. Be mindful of what you do or say in front of your impressionable kiddos. They observe our values and work ethic, ultimately shaping what kind of person they will grow up to be. As parents, anytime we laugh at or pass judgment on someone else, we are essentially opening up the door for our kids to do the same. Our kids are paying attention to how we behave and how we treat others. We are setting the benchmark.


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