My older daughter is in the 5th grade, and the drama has begun with serious momentum. I have known it was coming, but expecting it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. These little girls are so confused and self-absorbed and insecure that my heart goes out to them. At the same time, I just want to take my little girl away from it all for the next few years!
It was a very hard time for me in my childhood, and I want to do whatever it takes to make it bearable for my two girls. I don't know how, but here are my thoughts:
1. I will listen and empathize without minimizing their feelings. Even though it is silly to those of us who have come through it and are on the other side, to an 11-year-old, it is a big deal. However, that is not to say that I won't help my girls to see a bigger picture and determine for themselves that what the girls say and how they treat each other from day to day (which is ever-changing) doesn't define my girls nor is it even about them most of the time.
2. I will encourage them to be involved in church activities, as well as other activities that broaden their social network. This is a good way to to get away from the ubiquitous cliques at school and see that there is more to life than who is popular and who is best friends with whom at their home-away-from-home.
3. I will teach them how to find the best in others and to make others feel special. After all, isn't that what these little girls are looking for? Acceptance? Assurance? If my girls can understand where these others are coming from and offer them acceptance and assurance, then they will probably be liked without quite as much drama. (This is a theory.)
4. I will encourage my girls to not enable another girl's pouting or attention-getting and to not be sucked in to gossiping themselves. Since I will be assuring and accepting them at home for who they are, I will also be cheering them on when they choose to take the higher road in these situations at school.
5. I will teach my daughters that their worth comes from God, not from their peers' opinions and whims. God loves all these little girls with all of their stuff, and a good grasp of that understanding could keep a girl from falling prey to self-doubt brought upon by gossip and fickleness.
6. I will always do whatever it takes to keep the communication lines wide open between my daughters and me. They will know that their mother is always available to discuss what is going on in their lives, and that she cares.