Support for Friendships for Girls

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Empathy isn't knowing how you would feel if you were in her shoes. It's understanding how she feels in her own shoes."  
~ Kyle Miller

This quote is one I find explains empathy perfectly. A personal story of relationships between girls was shared in a recent post. It emphasizes how essential the life skill of empathy is for relationships and well-being in life. 

Support for Friendship for Girls

Of course the early years of birth - 5 are the time of greatest impact in wiring the brain for relationship and empathy abilities. However, the childhood years are an important time for practicing these essential life skills. The friendship experiences during this time have a critical impact on brain pathways toward adulthood. Through social interactions, the pre-teen years are a time that continues to contribute to the development of the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area of the brain responsible for the ability to self-regulate.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, family coach and trusted online adviser for teens. She has just released a wonderful new book to guide healthy relationships for girls ages 8-12. The Girls' Q &A Book on Friendship, is one that I had the honor of reviewing and am thrilled to share here.

My review:
“The world is going to be filled with girls that are kind, smart and self-assured as a result of this book. It’s fantastic! Annie provides fun, caring, straight forward, practical and supportive solutions for common relationship problems at a time when genuine friendships are needed more than ever! She communicates at the girls’ level so well!!”

The Girls' Q&A Book

In addition, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie about the value of this resource for girls, educators and parents during her book tour. Enjoy learning more about Annie and this great book.

1   Deborah:   Do you find that there is a greater need for helping girls develop healthy friendships more than ever before?

Annie: Short answer, yes. Why? Because many girls’ friendship conflicts are played out on social media instead of being resolved in private, calm, and respectful face-to-face conversations. Or in conversations facilitated by caring adults. Social media is the world’s largest unsupervised playground and when girls go there to vent about a friend, things can spin out of control in seconds (and often do). It’s really all about learning to manage destructive emotions in responsible ways so no one gets hurt intentionally.

We all feel the effects of jealousy, hurt, betrayal, rejection… but people who have high Emotional (or Social) Intelligence skills know how to calm down before taking action. That’s the piece that’s missing for girls (and boys) these days. When they feel upset they grab the nearest device and use it as a weapon to get back at whomever they’re upset with at the moment. So much damage to girls’ health and well-being could be avoided (or minimized) if they had more tools for calming down, developing empathy, and communicating effectively and respectfully. Those are the skills girls need to develop healthy friendships (and, in later life) healthy professional relationships and romantic ones as well.

2   Deborah: Is there an aspect of friendships that you find to be most common from the girls that have contributed questions to the book?

Annie: Most common is the misconception that “If I speak up for myself in a friendship, I am not being a good friend.” This creates huge problems for girls because when they are upset, they need to express themselves effectively and appropriately to the friend who needs to hear it. (Talking behind her back doesn’t count!) But girls are often unwilling and/or unable to initiate those conversations. So they feel miserable and stuck in their misery. They believe that a “good friend” should never tell a friend something negative because then she will “hurt the friend’s feelings. And that’s mean.” So, if I, Annie, am hurt by something my bff Deborah did, I can not tell her, otherwise I will not be a good friend.” But Deborah is not a mind reader. If I suffer in silence, Deborah has no way of knowing how I feel. My silence will, in fact, send the message that it is OK for her to continue hurting me, even though it is not OK! My silence also leaves me feeling upset and powerless, not realizing that I do have power to change my response to this situation.

     Deborah: After providing support and advice, what is the most heartwarming story of change you have seen take place?

Annie: A girl emailed me about having fallen for her bff’s boyfriend. She was crying herself to sleep every night and thinking about him all the time and each time, feeling super guilty about “betraying” her friend… even though neither her friend nor the boyfriend ever knew she had these feelings. She also felt there was something “wrong” with her because she had never had a boyfriend. She wrote to me recently with an update…  

 I've really gotten to be comfortable and happy with myself as I am, and I'm happy that I've grown as a person since then. I've even given a speech similar to yours to my other friends. I'm so much happier with my school life, my friends, how I spent my free time, etc. now than I was a year ago, and I just wanted to tell you that I'm doing so well now! Thanks so much for being there for me and all the other people who come to you for help.” 

As you can imagine, that email totally made my day!
     Deborah: There are many options for ways this book can be beneficial. Is there a way that you suggest the book is used to be most influential?

Annie: This book can be read by a girl all by herself and it will, hopefully, feel like she is with a friend who understands and can give her advice she can trust. The book can also be read by a girl and her Mom or Dad. I can imagine so many great family conversations that could be sparked by the Q&A in this book! Another way would be for two or three girls to read the book together. That would provide a safe context for girls to talk about some of the experiences and feelings they’ve had (or are having). Ultimately, any reading of the book that provides food for thought and action steps is going to empower girls and make their friendship healthier, stronger, and more fun!

To enjoy and benefit from all that Annie shares go to Annie
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