"When no boys are in the classroom girls take part more. They answer more questions, and they argue more. I guess you would say they debate more, but I remember the same situation happening when boys were in the class and a couple of them yelled out "Cat Fight!" The girls got angry, and they stopped debating."
Boarding School Guides:
Positive Ways to Help Your Daughter Deal with Teen Emotions
As the parent of a teenage girl, you've probably already realized that bullying and peer pressure play a very real role in the lives of today's adolescents. What you may not have realized is the degree to which teenage girls are also resorting to violence as the answer to often simple peer group misunderstandings or disputes. Often referred to as relational aggression, violence between teenage girls can range from seemingly innocuous acts like "accidentally" bumping or pushing another girl, to more serious – and in a few notable cases fatal – incidents.
Because girl-on-girl violence amongst teens is a relatively new phenomenon, there are still relatively few comprehensive studies or statistics available (although a scan of recent news reports will confirm the rising numbers of reported incidents!). There are, however, a number of things you can do to help your daughter learn to constructively deal with her feelings and emotions, especially if you suspect that she is either the target of relational aggression or an instigator of that aggression:
- Encourage your daughter's participation in extracurricular activities – one thing psychologists and researchers have been sure of for a long time is the fact that girls who are highly involved in sports, academics and/or specific extracurricular activities are less likely to engage in relational aggression – or to be the target of it.
- Support your daughter's friendships and social involvements through clubs and community organizations as well as through her school. Friendships formed around common involvements (like a recreational sports team or church group, for example) can provide a healthy social outlet for your daughter by helping her develop self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Teach your daughter the definition of friendship – make sure that she understands the difference between true friendship and relationships in which one individual is permitted "power" or control over the other. Sharing your own definition of friendship with her and discussing the characteristics of "balanced" relationships will help her begin to define the traits that she values in a friendship.
- Team up with your daughter's school. Teachers, administrators and other faculty can provide a valuable support network for both you and your daughter. Schools can also offer guidance counseling, programs and resources for addressing relational aggression on both an individual and community-wide level.
- Give your daughter a journal. If she's having difficulty expressing her emotions or dealing with social challenges at school, journals can provide an excellent "personal space." Encourage her to use the journal as a constructive means of working through her feelings.
- Consider counseling. If you notice that your daughter continues to have difficulty handling her emotions or you are concerned that she may indeed be an instigator of relational aggression, seeking professional counseling is essential. A trained counselor can become an objective listener and mentor for your daughter, and can teach her practical techniques and strategies for constructively addressing her emotions.
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