Raising a Compassionate Daughter in today’s world of Cyber-space is quite the challenge.
At bath time I notice my daughter studying her seven year old figure in the mirror. She turns herself from side-to-side attempting to straighten her posture & suck in her belly.
‘Momma?‘ she hesitates… ‘When will my belly go away? The girls at recess were teasing me…’
All at once, my past and her future flashed before me.
Girls are just plain mean.
I was the naive little girl who inevitably walked right into the traps other girls set for me.
In 8th grade, one of the most popular girls in school suffered an embarrassing break-up. The boy LOUDLY made the announcement to everyone just before the first bell.
I was under the impression this girl was my best friend. After all, she lived down the block and she was the first ‘friend’ I’d made when I moved in with my dad.
Empathetic to her plight, I slipped a hand-written note into her locker just before lunch.
The note thoughtfully pointed out the reasons why the boy was an idiot before I began gushing about why she deserved someone better. Then I decorated the page with colorful hearts, flowers and swirly’s- making it extra special.
At lunch, everyone was buzzing. It seemed a lot of fingers were pointed in my direction and I felt like all eyes were on me as one of the popular boys approached my table.
He took a seat across from me and took a piece of paper out of his pocket. I immediately recognized my own handwriting as he carefully unfolded the page and laid it in front of me.
Heat rushed to my cheeks, I swallowed hard trying to suppress the tears.
“What’s this all about, ehe?’ he pretended to be concerned but his words were empty.
“There are copies making the rounds all over school! You know… everyone thinks you are in love with Michelle?”
I was mortified.
It was just two weeks before summer break and I was the laughing stock of the school. I imagined this is all anyone would be talking about over the summer. Conversations at the beach would be centered around the silly little girl who was stupid enough to think Michelle was her best friend. Ha. Ha. Ha.
But the other children did forget quickly.
Within a week, their minds were racing towards summer vacation. Everyone went back to being children and eventually the humiliation took a back seat in my brain as well. No one seemed to remember the following year and I moved onward.
The internet doesn’t easily forget.
Fortunately, my mortifying event took place during the days of dial-up internet.
Facebook and Instagram were non-existent so it wasn’t yet common practice to take a photo and immediately post online.
‘Regardless of age, women of all walks are drawn together into a posse by their very need for constant reinforcement.’
While mean girls who prey upon the less popular have always existed; today cyber bullying is vicious and it’s leading to teen suicide in alarming rates. This is something that needs to be combated early. We need to teach our daughters to be better.
Together we can Change the Standards of Social Media
While social media is still a relatively new concept to my generation- kids today are growing up with direct access to all of their peers. We are just beginning to understand the overall impact this will have on our children long term.
We all do it… slip into that ‘mean girl’ mentality when we feel insecure or threatened. It’s easy enough to pick someone else apart in an effort to feel better about ourselves. ‘Insecurity breeds hostility and contempt.'(3)
Today we have direct access to hurt feelings and destroy someone’s self confidence by simply hitting the return button.
‘Being bullied by a mean girl is a kind of social torment that often exists without parents and teachers even noticing. Social media has given mean girls an entirely new avenue to harm others. In addition to in-person bullying, mean girls also engage in cyberbullying.’ (1)
Facing personal insecurities and finding your own tribe without putting others down.
At my age, I am still insecure in some situations but I manage to force my way through the doors… I put on a smile and fake the confidence necessary to get to the other side of the room. This is a requirement in my profession. When I am wearing my camera, I don’t think twice about entering a room.
My camera gives me the confidence to enter any social circle and take control. I often employ this confidence when I enter a room without my camera. I attempt to smile and make eye contact with others, nodding to acknowledge their existence.
I use this same technique when I take my daughter to the playground.
While other parents are aggressively typing on their phones in an effort to avoid eye-contact, I go the opposite route. I smile and engage with their children.
This isn’t always easy, especially for those whom have anxiety in social situations. It’s important to learn coping mechanisms and ease into a social dynamic that might make you uncomfortable.
Five Ways to Help your Child Navigate
As kids navigate friendships and cliques, there’s plenty parents can do to offer support. If your child seems upset, or suddenly spends time alone when usually very social, ask about it. Here are some tips:
Talk about your own experiences: Share your own experiences of school — cliques have been around for a long time!
Help put rejection in perspective: Remind your child of times he or she has been angry with parents, friends, or siblings — and how quickly things can change.
Shed some light on social dynamics: Acknowledge that people are often judged by the way a person looks, acts, or dresses, but that often people act mean and put others down because they lack self-confidence and try to cover it up by maintaining control.
Find stories they can relate to: Many books, TV shows, and movies portray outsiders triumphing in the face of rejection and send strong messages about the importance of being true to your own nature and the value of being a good friend, even in the face of difficult social situations. For school-age kids, books like “Blubber” by Judy Blume illustrate how quickly cliques can change. Older kids and teens might relate to movies such as “Mean Girls,” “Angus,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “Clueless.”
Foster out-of-school friendships: Get kids involved in extracurricular activities (if they aren’t already) — art class, sports, martial arts, horse riding, language study — any activity that gives them an opportunity to create another social group and learn new skills.
*(excerpt from: Helping kids Cope with Cliques- Kid’s Health)