Father: “My 12-year-old daughter has many friends, but I don’t understand the mutual struggles. One day it’s arguing with one, the next day another is locked out, the third day my own daughter is the piss pole and she sits at home sad. When I ask if I can help, or if I should discuss it with the other parents, she doesn’t want to. These conflicts sometimes last quite a long time, a week or so, but then suddenly appear to be resolved again. When do I get involved in those quarrels and when not? If I myself am in danger of getting into a conflict situation with someone who is important to me, I name the problem and try to talk it out. That usually works.”
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Learning to see perspective
Loes Keijsers: “In the age phase between 12 and 16 years, children learn important social skills, including conflict management. Fortunately, because of her many friends, your daughter has enough practice material, that does not apply to every teenager.
“We see that girl groups score slightly higher on relational aggression, such as excluding each other and throwing each other out of the app group, and boys somewhat higher on physical aggression.
“You can help your child by asking her to gain insight into the situation. What exactly happened, what did she say, how did the other person react? What was a third girlfriend doing then?
“You can also teach your daughter to see from different perspectives: what would the other have felt? Does she realize that it might have been a bit annoying for the other person too? Such conversations not only take the stress out of the situation, but are also very formative. As soon as you start calling the other parent about their daughter’s behavior, you deprive your child of the opportunity to learn.
“For conflict resolution, the general rule is: keep it small, do it right away, keep it personal. That is, if you don’t like something, talk to someone about it immediately, so you don’t let it get worse, and do it face to face. Arguing over WhatsApp is a very bad idea.”
Follow game rules
Marga Akkerman: “Such quarrels are very normal among teenagers, you should not be alarmed. Where children come together, there is quarrel. This continues well into secondary education.
“Three elements are essential for social development: being able to understand non-verbal signals, being able to empathize with another person’s point of view, and being able to set boundaries. The fact that your daughter has many girlfriends means that there is a lot of ‘practice material’ available. That includes arguing.
“There are some rules of the game. You don’t hurt anyone else. If you don’t like something about the other person, don’t hit, yell, or name the other person; you clearly state what you don’t like. Children prefer to learn these principles at home, supplemented by instructions from the teacher.
“It offers you a great upbringing opportunity to talk to her about her own and other people’s boundaries. If someone makes a nasty remark, she should think about the friendship for a while and if it happens more often, she can ask herself the question: do I want to be part of this if they treat each other like this? Keep in mind that belonging is very important for a teenager.”