Dear Auntie A,
School is starting soon, and in my house there’s always an unspoken tension about getting back into the routines of school. This year the tension is even higher because of how last year ended with my daughter and her friends. My daughter has always needed to be in the “in” group and unfortunately that group has a tendency to exclude and bully others. My daughter has been on the inside of that group until last year, when–out of the blue, according to her, and as teens are quite fickle creatures I would agree with her–she was no longer a major player in the group. The amount of anguish this caused her last semester was difficult to watch as her grades did slip and her focus was on trying to be back in that crowd. I have counseled her to be kind to everyone, and the friends she was supposed to have will come back to her. Still, this is a hard task even for adults sometimes. Do you have any advice as to how I can guide her so that this school year she will be focused on her grades and not so preoccupied with trying to fit back in?
We all want to feel like we belong to a group. Sometimes just one statement of difference in opinion is enough to make you an outcast among those who had been your closest allies. It’s part of growing up to learn that some friends are for now and others are for life. I suspect she already knows why she was rejected, though it could have been anything, but belonging means everything to her at this age. I would have a very frank yet sensitive discussion about your expectations and hers for the upcoming year. I would encourage her to be kind to everyone, including the friends who hurt her feelings last year, and to start fresh with a good and positive attitude. I would also explain to her that these few years left in high school are for planning her future, and that after graduation she may never see any of her schoolmates (friend or foe) again. Putting life in perspective is very difficult at this age, but encouraging her to focus on her studies and be open to the possibility of making new friends instead of chasing after the old will get her started in the right direction psychologically for this school year.
Alisa Murray, aka “Auntie A,” is an a-winning columnist and fine-art photographer. She holds a BS in Psychology