My daughter is twelve. She is one of three classmates on the block who have always played together. Two years ago, Girl A started convincing Girl B not to play with my daughter. They started sneaking away from her, or suddenly having to go in when she tried to join them. The advice I got made me dizzy. One person told me she should foster a relationship with Girl B, but she was only getting hurt. Another advised me to ignore them, but that just isolated her more. Right now I'm following advice that she should neither chase nor ignore them but just act natural since you cant force friendships. The parents of these 2 girls are concerned but clueless/helpless. My question is, which advice to follow and also how do I minimize my daughters pain so it wont affect her (or me!).
You have answered your own question in your last few words. If your daughter's pain won't affect you, then you can minimize your daughter's pain.
But let's start at the beginning.
Your daughter, as a twelve year old, has just taken her first step into teenage-hood. Her two block friends are excluding her. She is hurt. You are hurt. You are also feeling angry and helpless. The world is coming to an end. It's not, but that is what it feels like to you. And I imagine, if you kid is getting the same vibes about this social situation like I am from the way you have phrased this question, then it is no wonder she is feeling so hurt.
Oy vey. Here I go again, placing the responsibility of how a daughter is feeling on the mother. Not fair, right? Well, here's the deal. You did not cause the situation with her friends, but you are obviously an involved and caring mother. Someone your daughter not only confides in about her relationship problems, but listens to in how to solve them. That is evident in how you talk about getting advice, and it seems like your daughter was following that advice, presumably as a result of your sharing your advice with her. Great.
There is no better person in the world than you to help her deal with rejection and learn to feel differently about rejection. So that's your job. I will reframe the response I initially put forth to you. Your job, as her mother, is to teach, support, and model for your daughter what she needs in order to navigate these horribly, treacherous years of social rejections with her core intact. She may manage to do it without you, but if you are the mother you need to be, you can help her do it better and more efficiently, with less angst.
This question was sent in months ago and have just found it sitting here unanswered. And I have forgotten who sent it in. And maybe that works out because I imagine that the situation has long resolved itself. Your daughter has moved on to be friends with different girls on the block, she is involved with her school friends, or with her cousins around the corner, or is friends again with either both Girls A and B, or maybe only with one of them. And maybe one of these two girls have since moved away; or you have, and this situation has resolved itself in a totally different way than you could have even imagined. (If you are reading this, you can let us know!)
The reason I bring this possibility up is because often time is a great healer. And if we would just have the patience—and teach our children patience—then most things resolve itself without any outside interference. Even without therapy (lol). Even more, the world is a funny place, and without our intervention, conflict and unpleasant situations can be resolved by opportunities that come our way that are game changers. Like I said, for example, girls can move away, or other girls can move in. And a child's life can change radically with what appears to be no effort at all.
But here is what I believe. As a parent, as a therapist.
That although Hashem will send those opportunities, the only people who can reach out and use them are those that have the tools to both recognize the opportunities and have the ability to use them.
What that would mean, is that in the situation of your daughter, it would be great if Girl A moves away, but the only way anything will really change for her overall, if she is a receptacle for change; that this opportunity is simply the chance she needs to move back into the place she was, the person she was. But if anxiety and self-doubt, or lack of self-esteem, or fearfulness have become her companions, then no matter how many girls move in and out of her block, she will not be able to use those opportunities because the problem has become within her and not without.
And that is where you, as the parent, enters into the drama.
It is how you will model, support, and teach her that will impact the receptacle she is for social relationships. No, you may not be the problem, but you may be very much part of the solution. Not the solution for this specific story which may not have a happy ending, but the story of her teen years which can end happily overall.
And if your daughter would have written in the question, my answer may look very different than this one. But when there is a mother, I encourage good mothering!
So here is a way to approach this situation in a way that accesses that good mothering and breeds success in teens who are experiencing the normal pain of social rejection.
First, examine your own reaction. Often a mother reacts from a place of her own history of social rejection. If that is the case with you, which your phrasing indicates, then take a step back and remember the good mother you are that your daughter's experiences are much different than yours.
Know that social rejection is the the stuff of being a teenager. There isn't a teenager who does not experience it no matter how popular that child is, or how successful. So accept that as a natural course of growing up and the need to experience it as preparation for continued challenges of adulthood (shidduchim, jobs, in-laws; all which contain possible elements of rejection at different stages).
Allow your child to vent her feelings of hurt and all the accompanying emotions. Remember these are her emotions and not yours. The same way when she was 2 years old and cried she that her cousin took her toy, you were very clear that her upset was hers and you did not internalize it then. Because often, your emotionality either causes a child to shut down; or her emotions to escalate.
Provide comfort. Be careful not to indicate that you are judging her in her role of how she caused the situation. Even if you think she may have had a part in her rejection. That can be addressed after this particular situation has been resolved or been forgotten in favor of new friendships.
In the future, don't jump in to fix it. See if she can manage on her own, whether or not it resolves in the way you want it to. Often, this is the stuff of life and girls move on. However, keep an eye on her to see that her hurt has truly passed and not been driven underground by despair. The good mother notices changes in her daughter's behavior. Trust your instincts and if it says that something is still wrong, then definitely take care of it professionally.
Give your daughter the space she needs to overcome difficulties, while providing that balance of support. You can do that by sharing your own trials as a teenager, from a perspective of present success. Or showing her your faith that she is resilient by asking her how she wants to handle the situation.
And probably the most important piece here is to simply broaden her perspectives by showing her that it may just not be about her. That Girl A is simply insecure and needs to solidify her relationship with one girl and she may have picked Girl B instead of your daughter because she instinctively knows your daughter is too nice and solid to leave out another girl. Or any other scenario. Teens are essentially in their heads and conscious that everything is about them. Opening their minds that stuff happens that have nothing to do with them when it seems that way, is good training for life. It's not always about you, darling, is the message you want to give your daughter. And it's the message I want to give you too, as you begin this very fun part of having a teenage daughter in the house. It's not about you.
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BINAH MAGAZINE'S COLUMN "QUESTIONS YOU WERE AFRAID TO ASK, BUT ASKED ANYWAY."
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