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 wasnâ€™t as concerned that my every action would become a finely etched memory in her consciousness. But as sheâ€™s gotten older and more entrenched in my personal life, sheâ€™s begun to intensely critique my friendships. I get it; sheâ€™s trying to size up her friendships and compare her social interactions with mine. And while Iâ€™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 oneâ€”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 whatâ€™s the problem? Iâ€™m not really all that good at navigating my own relationships with other women. If I really dig deep, I think itâ€™s because I harbor a deep seated distrust of most women, other than my two sisters. And perhaps because Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ve gotten older. That is not to say that I donâ€™t have friends- I do; although according to my daughterâ€”I need â€œmore friendsâ€.
I think because my daughter doesnâ€™t have a sister, Iâ€™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 donâ€™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. â€œOur kids do what they see, not what they are told,” says Dr. Durvasula. â€œTweens 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. â€œ Dr. Durvasula notes itâ€™s important for our tween daughters to see their mothers cultivate their friendships – with men and women and offers these tips to make sure weâ€™re modeling the right behaviors.
-Avoid gossiping in front of your girls, model respectful communication and “presence” – show them how to actively listen.
â€œIf they see adult women talking smack about each other, we are in essence giving them permission to do the same with their peers,â€ 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?