Thursday, October 24, 2013

Emotional Terrorists? Girls, Friendship and Everything In Between

IMAGE : MORGUEFILE.COM | Emotional Terrorists?
I've come to realise that as you get older, although friendships can often diminish in number, they tend to become much more meaningful and fulfilling. When you're in your teens, all going well you have a handful of great friends with whom your main aim in life is to have as much fun as possible. This usually involves experimenting in whatever peer-driven activity is on the cards irrespective of its level of propriety. In your twenties, if you have a great job, or you go to university, the people you meet here often become your 'circle'. I've worked with some awesome people in my time and still consider them to be some of my dearest (and funniest) friends who I love to reunite with as often as possible. 

In the next phase of your life if you have children, the bonds you form with new found friends from other parent groups i.e. a mother's group, kinder and school become some of the easiest, most meaningful friendships of your life due largely to your adult level of maturity and because of the common interests and challenges you share as parents.  So it's at that time once your own friendships are at their easiest and most fulfilling that you become aware of the challenges faced by your kids as they enter the same friendship phases you survived all those years ago.

I have decided in recent times, that I am not going to navigate the teenage years easily as a Mother. I'm hoping that having come to this realisation, I've made the first step to accepting it (surely there's a twelve step program for this?!). I know this because my usually carefree almost ten year old daughter has just recently clued onto the fact that Mum is NOT always right (I beg to differ) and perhaps has been put on this earth to make her life difficult (that bit may well be true in some way). The transition from having a little girl to a pre-teen seems to commence suddenly. It may begin with unusual teariness and confusion, a sudden raging temper or the need to have the last say in EVERY. SINGLE. DISPUTE. (in my case, that's a genetic flaw). As we reluctantly enter this phase, there are times when I seem to have hit the jackpot on all three fronts which can make life interesting! To survive, I have the sudden and frequent need to manage our relationship by walking on egg shells - such a shame she doesn't extend me the same courtesy!

As this transition from little girl to teen is taking place, so too are changes to her own environment and the complexities of friendships and social awareness become a new element in her journey. Until this year, Miss O has always been a social drifter which as a parent, I've encouraged and considered healthy.  She's always been happy to play with whoever is playing the most interesting game and thankfully she's usually graciously accepted by the other participants without a second thought. More recently however, she's woken up to the realisation that she is lacking a true 'best friend' i.e. someone she can share secrets with; someone who will always seek her out with a simple glance of acknowledgement when in class they're required to 'partner up'. This absence of a true best friend has begun to trouble and distract her since entering this pre-teen phase and to this end, I've become increasingly interested in other people's take on girls and their early, strong friendships.  Recently I came across this article written in the Daily Life by Sarah McDonald and for anyone who, like us, is navigating the unchartered territory of girls and their seemingly complex social circles, this article is a good read.  Girls Cliques Are Getting Younger. The article makes interesting points about girls and their friendship groups - the good, the bad and the ugly including the premise that girls can often be described as 'emotional terrorists' in their interactions with each other. It's a harsh definition for sure but let's be honest - girls can indeed tap into the emotional vulnerabilities of their peers from a VERY early age and I'm sure we've all been victims of this at times throughout our lives, even as adults.

Another valuable resource I've discovered is Melbourne teacher and author Sharon Witt who has some interesting and valid things to say about how the teen phase is commencing so much sooner in girls of the current generation. No longer do the challenges of what we call teen behaviour commence at the assumed age of thirteen and fourteen - research is suggesting that girls are displaying these changing patterns of behaviour and responses to their environment as early as eight and nine. Gah! I guess this explains a little about why they're facing these complex friendships issues so much earlier than us Generation Xers and why the hell I'm already walking on egg shells! Sharon's 'Girl Wise' books have proven to be really useful to us so far.  Check out her website here, Sharon Witt.

So amongst the many lessons I'll no doubt clumsily share with my daughters in the coming years, the importance of mastering good friendship will be one that I'll dish out without hesitation and with a certain degree of good, concrete experience. To respect and love a friend and to be respected and loved in return is one of life's pure treasures - here's to successfully sharing that gift and crucial life skill with our girls (and boys too).

No comments :

Post a Comment