One of the best protective strategies for your daughter is to surround herself with numerous positive friends. You cannot be with her in school, after school, and during her practices and meetings. You cannot cull through her classmates and kick the negative ones to the curb, but you can give your girl every opportunity to associate with positive friends who add to her well-being rather than subtract from it. Girls change in their stages of forming friendships as they go through their school years.
As girls get older, they go through "transitory" friendships that change according to age. At age eight or nine, girls walk in loose clusters of three to six members, with all of them talking, as observed by school psychologist Dr. JoAnn Deak. By age ten or eleven, girls walk in sets of twos, a sign that the "best-friend era" has begun.
According to a KidsHealth poll, only 19 percent of boys who have been threatened or mistreated by their peers tell someone or ask an adult for help. In contrast, 32 percent of girls tell their friends, parents, teachers, or guidance counselors about peer problems and ask for help. Encourage your girl always to tell someone.
Typically, your daughter and her girlfriends graduate from an early stage of side-by-side playing to interacting as they play. Then they move to friendships in groups and the best-friend stage. After that girls reach the clique stage, the interest-based group stage, and finally—in their senior year—they develop an accepting spirit and openness to finding friends almost everywhere.
Not all girls follow the friendship stages exactly. Some linger at a certain stage while others skip one or two. No matter where your daughter finds herself in the development of friends as she gets older, she can benefit from having a wide range of girls to choose from. So should her friends move, for example, or should she change schools, she will be able to select new or more friends with ease and confidence.
Benefits of Girlfriends
According to Lyn Mikel Brown, a women's studies and education scholar, girls make use of their girlfriends as their "emotional and psychological safety nets." With their friends beside them, they will be braver, speak out more often on important topics, and show more courage as they stand up for others—and for themselves.
Therefore, having girlfriends is most important for your daughter. She needs them as her allies and to make her strong, feel respected, and more successful. Even though your daughter may already have one fabulous friend or best buddy, how can you make sure that her army of allies expands?