Welcome to the years of homophily. That’s a fancy psych term for cliques. While I don’t like cliques, and we’ve worked hard to keep our kids from forming them, they’re pretty much inevitable. And they can even do some good. Somewhere around the tween years, your daughter will start to select people who are like her to be her friends. Conversely, whoever she picks to be her friends will affect who she becomes. Friendships formed in the tween and teen years have a significant influence on all types of behaviors. Like it or not, your daughter’s friends will either support the values you are attempting to instill or overwhelm her with a different point of view.
Among tween girls, 67% say that Mom should never be involved in their friendships. 21% say “it depends”. Only 12% say that Mom should be involved in the selection of and maintenance of her friendships. Thank your daughter today if she is in that small but wise minority!
So what’s a mom to do? Get involved in her friendships! My mom did this when I was growing up, and it was a critical maneuver in protecting her little girl (me!). Part of me wanted more space, but most of me loved that my mom was the mom everyone could really talk to. In fifth and sixth grade, my friends shared their drama with her as if she were a highly paid counselor. As a result, she was on the inside of our major decisions. It also gave her the knowledge to step in if I was making wrong decisions.
It can get tricky here since, as I’m sure you know, somewhere between the ages of 8-12, many girls tend to feel strongly that Mom should not be involved in friendships or help select them. This is no small issue to be tackled. The Bible tells us, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). It’s critical for you to be involved in her friendships so you can teach her during these tween years how to select friends who will mirror her values and stand strong in her teen years. The goal is not complete control, but informed guidance.
I suggest you do this by becoming the ultimate Carpool Queen and Sleepover Diva! Driving carpool is a great way to do research on your kids. If you keep the volume on your radio turned down, you can really tune into the generally unfiltered interaction of friends. You learn who burps the loudest, who the meanest teacher is, and who has a boyfriend. Just enjoy and learn. God will guide you in how to use this…ah…”intelligence” later on.
You can also make your home the place to hang out. Become the hostess with the mostest. Make your home kid-friendly — whether that means a pool, secret room, a basement with a big screen, an old air-hockey table or maybe just a warm plate of cookies. Host game nights or movie nights and earn the status of hangout. Why? So you can protect your daughter! It’s smart to be the host home. So, pop the corn and pull out the sleeping bags that will never be used for sleeping! A connecting mom is a Sleepover Diva.
As an added bonus, being the host home lets you introduce your daughter to girls who may not naturally be a part of her clique. Take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to that girl at school or church who always gets left out or maybe doesn’t have an involved mom in her life. This is a great way to model compassion for your daughter, teaching her how to befriend those the rest of the world deems “unlovable.” Get involved with her friendships – it’s likely that one of these days she just might thank you!
Adapted from Chapter 10 of Dannah Gresh’s Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl.