Dear Ms. Starr,

My 12 year daughter who just started 6th grade comes home everyday and says that no one at school likes her, everyone hates her, and that they don’t include her. As her mom, I have talked to her teacher about this matter, and her teacher tells me that everything is fine! She says that my daughter IS included but that she chooses to sit by herself and not talk to anyone. It sounds like she is not putting herself out there, and then I hear how “horrible” life is and how everyone is mean. What do I do?

Clueless!

Dear Clueless!,

At one point or another, and whether or not we choose to admit it, we have all played games in our relationships. Perhaps we have sat down at an empty table to see if someone would join us. Maybe we’ve held off calling or texting someone to see if they would contact us first. Or possibly we’ve chosen to hang back from the group to see if we would be noticed and included.

Dear Ms. Starr, How can I stop worrying that people are thinking the worst of me? Even when I am around my family I sometimes become extremely unsure about what to do or say. I’m so insecure because I always assume that people will think what I’m doing or saying is silly, weird, irritating, or …

Advice to Myself

Our sage Ms. Starr reflects on the last thirty years and offers words of wisdom to her teenage self.

 

I turned thirty this week. I know, I know, some of you may be shaking your head and thinking, “You’re still a baby.” Others of you may be wide-eyed and dropped mouth, thinking, “Whoa dude, you’re old!”

Thirty feels like a big deal, bigger than when I said goodbye to my teen years. Bigger than when I jumped out of a plane on my twenty-first birthday. Bigger than when I turned twenty-eight and began what astrologers call “true adulthood” and my first Saturn return.

Many people speak to the hardship of the teen years and they are absolutely right. Our teen years are painful in the most beautiful way. There is an innocence to the loneliness we feel as teens, navigating our social and familial worlds while clinging wildly to different things, personal to each of us, to help us figure out who we are. Like Pi on his raft, we float in a strange ocean of the unknown, waves of insecurity and doubt crashing over us as we desperately search for the next island to call home.

Dear Ms. Starr,

I wondered if you could shed some light on a concern. My 8-year-old daughter has become obsessed with various TV shows. Over the last month she has gone through a Suite Life of Zack and Cody phase and now she is watching Lizzy McGuire. She can’t seem to get enough! She seeks them out the minute we get home each evening and would gladly watch them uninterrupted until we drag her to bed. Recently I’ve become worried about the kind of messages these programs are sending about friendship and communication. For example, from the little I have watched of these shows, it seems the characters engage in a lot of trash talking with each other. I have tried to expose her to other types of shows, mostly PBS ones that are available online, but she strongly resists. Is this common among girls her age? Does it concern you as much at it concerns me, and what do you suggest I do here?

~ Too Much TV

Dear Too Much TV,

Sadly, I think that watching a lot of TV is the norm for many kids these days.

I too remember being smitten with certain shows (Go Go Power Rangers!) when I was growing up, watching them for hours until my eyes hurt or my parents forced me to do something else, whichever came first. Props to you for noticing the ways in which these popular TV personas may not be the best role models for girls when it comes to communication and what it means to be a true friend.

Dear Ms. Starr,

I am in the fourth grade and I have two best friends. We spend all of our time together and play every day at recess. My friends are always asking me what I want to do and they always ask me to choose what games we play. They both also copy things that I say and how I dress and do my hair. I really like being original and don’t like how they copy me. I also don’t want to hurt their feelings. How do I get them to stop copying me?

~ Concerned About Copycats

Dear Concerned,

Although you may feel frustrated when your friends copy you, it’s also a form of flattery (meaning that they think you’re pretty cool). It seems like your friends really look up to you and don’t want to upset you or let you down if they choose a game that you don’t like playing.

Dear Ms. Starr,

I have this friend who keeps making fun of my clip-on earrings. She says mean things like how I am wasting money on clip-on earrings and that I should just get my ears pierced like everyone else. The other day we got in a fight when she took my seat at lunch. Then she ignored me at recess and the entire next day. Now she is talking to me again, but she never said she was sorry. What should I do?

~ Keep My Clip-Ons?

Dear Keep Your Clip-Ons,

Just so you know, I rocked clip-on earrings until I was twelve years-old and loved them! There is nothing wrong with not having your ears pierced and, if I were you, I would ask this friend to please stop teasing you about your fun jewelry choices.

Now onto your question.

Dear Ms. Starr,

My 9-year-old daughter is in the middle of four friends. Each girl seems to want my daughter to be her “best friend.” They are all fighting over her and excluding one another. This may not seem like a problem given that my daughter is not the excluded one, but it upsets her, as she doesn’t want to choose between her friends. I would like to teach my daughter to be friends with all of them, and to not have just one “best friend.” I would also like to be able to sit down with the other mothers and discuss a strategy to help all of the girls not exclude each other. Their teacher at school doesn’t seem to think there is a problem. However, I know this conflict is causing problems between the girls every day in and out of class. How do I empower my daughter to show the girls that they can all be friends together?

Thanks,

Caught In The Middle Mother

Dear Caught In The Middle Mother,

Wow! It sounds like you and your daughter are caught in the middle of a friendship pickle!

You are absolutely right that your daughter doesn’t need to have just one best friend. Lots of girls feel pressure to have one bestie, when really it is way better to have lots of close friends! At GLI we say that 4th-grade girls are still “shopping” for their best friends. This is the time that we want to encourage them to hang out with different types of people, so that they may learn for themselves what they need and want from a friendship.

Dear Ms. Starr,

When you were in middle school, did you attend a summer camp that helped build your confidence? Any recommendations for a middle school girl, especially located on the West Coast?

~ Curious About Camp

Dear Curious About Camp,

Thanks so much for writing in! Growing up, I went to camp almost every summer. When I was younger, I attended several different day camps and, starting in middle school, I began going to a co-ed sleep away camp for three weeks every summer.

My experience at camp was great! It became a safe place that I looked forward to going back to after every school year. At camp, I also found my soul sisters –– a group of truly stellar lady friends, some of whom I remain friends with to this very day.

Hi Ms. Starr,

I have a beautiful 8-year-old that goes to a full gifted third grade. She is sweet, smart, and pretty, but has some troubles with making friends in her class. It is a class with eleven girls and two groups: the cool girls who are mean to everybody but popular, and the nerdy ones. My daughter says she just wants a best friend or to be in a group, but she does not identify with any of the groups. Additionally, two girls in the cool group are especially mean and rude to her. She says she does not want to go to school because she does not like to be in a place where they treat her badly. She also says she does not know how to stand up for herself when they shout or are rude to her. She does not want to ask a classmate for help because she is afraid they will call her a nerd. Please give some advice on how to help her deal with these issues.

Thank you so much,

Daughter In Distress

Dear Daughter In Distress,

Although your daughter is in a full gifted class, her trouble making friends is, in my estimation, 100% normal.

Elementary school can be a particularly challenging time for girls socially. All girls must find their way through the often harsh and confusing terrain that is “girl world.” Girls will do or be almost anything in order to not lose a friend or feel rejected by others. They will hide their feelings, try to make themselves smaller and quieter, and even put up with being called mean names and excluded by their classmates or so-called “friends.”

Dear Ms. Starr,

People tease me a lot. More boys than girls, and I’ve started thinking it’s because I’m more easy to tease than other people. I hide my feelings at first, but then when I get frustrated, my feelings burst out. I’ve had people call me names. My mom thinks it’s because I’m an only child and I don’t have a lot of practice standing up for myself. I am in the 4th grade, and I used to go to private school. It was quieter there and easier to be in control. Also, the boys weren’t so exasperating.

How do I become less easy to tease?

~ Tired Of Being Teased

Dear Tired Of Being Teased,

Thanks so much for your brave question. I am so sorry to hear that you’re being teased at school.

Whether or not we are used to it, it always hurts when others make fun of us or call us names. I think every girl on planet Earth knows how frustrating, embarrassing, and sad it feels to be teased by others.