I recently found the website of Annie Fox, M. Ed., which is full of practical advice for teens, parents and educators! Annie Fox, M. Ed. has written a new book for elementary school aged girls about dealing with friendship issues called Girls Q&A Book on Friendship. As a school counselor, I would have used this book all the time! This book answers questions that I was faced with on a regular basis. The social scenario for girls is complex and ever changing. This is a great book for girls to read to know that they are not alone, and gives them practical advice for dealing with real life situations.
Annie takes all of the questions seriously and addresses them in a way that makes an elementary school age girl feel like they have been heard and understood. So many times, I think adults hear the problem that a girl has and think “that’s not a real issue!”. In their life, it is! It is the biggest issue they are facing and sometimes the only thing they can think about. Annie gives them advice that is easy to understand and execute. She helps girls tease out the difference between small issues that are common and expected in a friendship and bigger issues that could lead to decreasing the amount of time you spend with a friend, or even ending a friendship. I like the phrases that she uses - like encouraging girls to “take a vacation from a friendship” when necessary.
Kids will love the quizzes. I especially appreciate that she works through each of the answers to the quizzes and that there is not just one right answer. Usually there are a few different things you can do when faced with a friendship issue and her answers demonstrate this. Girls can read through the whole book, or pick specific questions that address the current issue they have. I highly recommend this book!
I got a chance to ask Annie some questions I've heard from girls throughout my years working as a counselor. Read her wonderful and practical answers!!
1. Why do girls exclude others?
A: I’m sure if you asked individual girls that question “Why don’t you let her play/sit with you/invite her… ?” they’d give you all kinds of excuses. You might hear: “She’s weird.” “My friends don’t like her.” “She’s mean.” But those excuses only give girls a justification for being rude. They never get to the heart of it, which is: “In this moment, I give myself permission to be rude and unkind so that I can preserve and protect my social status.”
When an adult who understands the ins and outs of Girl World (including Peer Approval Addiction) thoughtfully guides conversations about exclusion, girls have opportunities to get past the justifications and own their behavior. From that point, girls can begin to become more compassionate and inclusive.
2. I have a bad reputation in school for being mean but I’d like to change it. How can I do that?
A: It sounds like you now understand how your reputation grew from your not being careful with other people’s feelings. I’m really proud of you for realizing you are responsible for your behavior and that you want to start making better choices. The first step is to apologize to everyone you knowingly hurt with your words and your actions (online and off). Talk to each person separately. (This might take a while and it might not be an easy conversation to have, but you can do it!)
To each person, you might say something like this, “I’m very sorry for what I did to you. It was mean and I want to apologize.” Then close your mouth and listen to what the person says. They may still be angry with you for things you did. (And they may have a right to be angry!) Please try to stay calm and not to get angry back. Just listen to what they have to say. You may learn a lot from what you hear. Even if the person is so surprised by your apology that he or she doesn’t know what to say, that’s OK. You have given them something to think about. You might just leave it at that… Or you might add this: “I’m trying to be a nicer person. I hope you give me a chance to prove it.”
3. My friend is always giving me gifts for no reason. She's lost a lot of friends recently, and I think she's trying to make sure I continue to be friends with her. What should I say to her?
Tell her you understand how she might be feeling uncertain about your friendship (because other friends have bailed on her recently). Ask her why she thinks some of her other friends are not happy with her at this time. Offer her the best advice you can give her about ways she might mend those broken friendships. Be sure you tell her that she doesn’t need to give you gifts to keep you as her friend. Hopefully your conversation will probably help her.
4. I want to make more friends. Where else can I meet other kids besides at school?
Many communities offer afterschool groups for kids, tweens and teens focused on different areas of interest. These groups are really good places to make friends outside of school. Even if you don’t know a single person in the group, you will already have something in common with everyone there… your common interest in the activity! So think about what you enjoy doing. It might be hiking or photography, cooking, dance or art or sports or drama or science, technology, or a zillion other things. Then do some research and find out what’s available in your town or county through Park and Rec Departments, faith-based communities, public libraries, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, scouting, etc. Find a group that matches one of your interests and join. You will soon have some new friends.
5. My best friend abandoned me. I don't know what to do!
A: It can be hard to move on after a friendship is over if you are still wondering what happened or if you worry that you might have done something “wrong.” If you aren’t sure what happened in this friendship, talk to your friend about it, assuming she is willing to talk. It’s worth a try! The goal isn’t necessarily to “get her back”… but simply to find out why she wanted a break. Sometimes two people who were once very close may find themselves drifting apart. It doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone did anything wrong. It may just be that one person has new interests and the friendship doesn’t feel like a good fit any more. Like outgrowing a pair of shoes, people can “outgrow” a friendship. It happens.
Aside from talking to your friend, there may not be anything else “to do” here. But that doesn’t mean you are powerless. You always have options! One option would be to look for a new best friend. Before you start, make a list of all the things you want and need in a friend. You might ask yourself to fill in the blank in this sentence: “I want a friend who is ___________________.” Keep filling in the blank until you run out of ideas. Then fill in the blank in this sentence: “I am a good friend because I ___________________.” Once you have a clear idea of the what kind of friend you are looking for and a clear idea of what you have to offer in a friendship, you can start shopping for a new best friend. Good luck. I hope this helps.
Stop by Annie's website, pick up this new book and let me know what you think!!
Please pick up this great book and let me know what you think!