Why is it so important that we model healthy friendships for our daughters?
As a mother I know my every move is being carefully recorded and dissected by my daughter; my mini-me, my living, breathing shadow. Whereas when she was younger, and more easily distracted by shiny objects; i.e. her attention could be diverted by a candy necklace or a new video, I wasn’t as concerned that my every action would become a finely etched memory in her consciousness. But as she’s gotten older and more entrenched in my personal life, she’s begun to intensely critique my friendships. I get it; she’s trying to size up her friendships and compare her social interactions with mine. And while I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than have to deal with her tweendom tales of minutiae like; who sat next to who at lunch and what this one said about that one—I know part of my job as a mother is helping her to navigate one of the most important aspects of her life- her relationships with other women.
So what’s the problem? I’m not really all that good at navigating my own relationships with other women. If I really dig deep, I think it’s because I harbor a deep seated distrust of most women, other than my two sisters. And perhaps because I’ve always leaned on them to be my source of strength and support, doing so, has made me less apt to develop close knit bonds with other women, especially as I’ve gotten older. That is not to say that I don’t have friends- I do; although according to my daughter—I need “more friends”.
I think because my daughter doesn’t have a sister, I’m work extra hard to ensure that I arm her with the tools to develop life-long friendships with other women. I desperately want her to feel that bond of sisterhood among her peers and always have that soft place to fall. But by the same token, I also don’t want to micromanage her relationships either. So just how do I strike that balance, and … is it really even within my control anyhow?
According to Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D. a psychologist and single mom to a 10 year old, www.doctor-ramani.com modeling healthy relationships whether for tweens, toddlers or adolescents is everything. “Our kids do what they see, not what they are told,” says Dr. Durvasula. “Tweens are getting into the zone where cruelty starts to creep into friendships – triangulation, benign neglect, and all the other things that can hurt little girl hearts. “ Dr. Durvasula notes it’s important for our tween daughters to see their mothers cultivate their friendships – with men and women and offers these tips to make sure we’re modeling the right behaviors.
-Avoid gossiping in front of your girls, model respectful communication and “presence” – show them how to actively listen.
“If they see adult women talking smack about each other, we are in essence giving them permission to do the same with their peers,” says Dr. Durvasula.
-If you feel yourself going into a dark place in a conversation (it may be too high a bar to ask you to stop gossiping) and your kid is around, either change the course of the conversation or tell the person you will call them back.
-Ultimately, be honest about your friendships and the emotions you are experiencing, especially when you do grow apart from a friend. Sometimes it’s hard for a tween to understand that friends sometimes grow apart, notes Dr. Durvasula, but when they see it happen to a “grown-up ( as well as other common situations) ” it feels less isolating.
So…do you agree or disagree?