The Myth of the BFF:
There is an amazing someone out there for you. You’ll know the moment you lay eyes on them. How? Because:
1. You never fight,
2. You like all the same things, and
3. You do everything together
Sound familiar? Like a story with Prince Charming and a white horse? This is the myth of the BFF. Girls tell us the story is supposed to start on the first day of kindergarten. As the girls hang up their Frozen backpacks, their eyes meet, and glitter falls as the My Little Ponies prance around.
Is there really such a thing as a best friend forever, or BFF? Sure, for a lucky few. But for most girls, friendships start shifting from the moment girls are able to have them. It’s a problem that intensifies as girls approach adolescence, when peer acceptance becomes paramount. As interests change, and girls develop at different paces, friendships can begin to destabilize en masse.
Losing a friend is always painful, but for girls, there can be an additional layer of self-blame and shame. That’s because girls are sold a bill of goods about friendship that looks a lot like the romance myths: Once we find our one true match, we’ll live happily ever after. The relationship with The One is supposed to be blissful, conflict-free and permanent.
This myth is a set-up.
Its not only often unattainable—its unhealthy. Girls often blame themselves no matter what:
- if they don’t have a BFF something must be wrong with them
- if they do have one they don’t know what to do when the relationships shifts or ends
This painful experience is an opportunity.
Explore the myth of the BFF. By talking about and even laughing at the myth together, parents can take away the power it holds. Not only will it help girls move through the heartbreak (yes, it can be true heartbreak) of a fading friendship; it will embolden them to call out bad behavior in relationships when they see it. When girls believe friendships should be forever, they may tolerate breaches of trust and other betrayals – just to hang on to the relationship. When they have more realistic expectations, they are more likely to see bad behavior for what it is – and act on what they know.
Let her grieve for a bit.
Before you dive into the “action” phase of parenting through this challenge, please keep in mind that empathy is vital. Your daughter needs to know you respect how painful this is for her. Rushing her through her hard feelings won’t make them go away; to the contrary, it might send her the message that her negative feelings are wrong, or should be hidden. Girls are under pressure to hide difficult feelings like sadness, anger, anxiety, betrayal and other strong emotions. As hard as this situation is, it’s also a chance to support your daughter as she learns how to acknowledge, respect and therefor manage difficult emotions. As a parent, you have the chance to show your daughter that moving through pain is a normal important part of healing, and life.
Being empathetic might sound like this:
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know you must feel really sad right now. It’s okay to feel upset. I’m here for you, and I want to do what I can to support you.
I remember what this was like. It was so painful to go to school every day and see that person who seemed to just forget about me. I promise you it won’t always feel this way, even if feels like it will.
When you sense she might be ready to talk about next steps, intersperse empathy with questions about what she wants to do. If she seems open to talking, start working together on a game plan for new connections. Set her up to succeed and feel good about herself by suggesting small, realistic goals you have confidence she can accomplish.
New relationships are always around the corner.
When we talk to groups of girls, we often ask them to raise their hands if they’ve ever lost a friend. Nearly every hand goes up. Then we ask them to raise their hands if they’ve made a new friend since then. The answer is always yes.
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (Revised and updated) by Rachel Simmons
Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write About Bullies, Cliques, Popularity & Jealousy by Rachel Simmons
From BFF to “Friend Divorce:” The 5 Truths We Should Teach Our Girls About Friendship on Time.com
The Myth of the BFF on RachelSimmons.com
Books about friendship troubles from Mighty Girl