6 Ways To Help Your Daughter When Her Friends Turn On Her

Photo: Georgian Bay Boudoir / Shutterstock
teen girl standing against a wall

This is an all too common scenario that happens to parents of teens, especially with females. You notice your daughter is quieter than usual and is not begging you to let her meet friends and go out.  It is a nice change, but something seems off. She is not talking about friends, seems tearful, and finally shares her friends are ignoring her and don’t want to be her friend anymore.

Or worse, her friend group has started to spread rumors about her and make fun of her behind her back and on social media. You have had those friends over countless times, taken them to sports events, the mall, and birthday parties, and you are furious, how could they do this to your daughter?  

What is a parent to do?

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How to help your daughter when friends turn on her

Why is this so hard for your daughter, and why does it hurt so much? We are wired to connect and form deep relationships with our peers, especially during our teen years. Being socially isolated is akin to losing one’s identity, and how they relate in the world.

Teens derive self-esteem and a sense of self from their peer group, and social ostracism hits at the core of their self-identity. "Well if they don’t like me, maybe no one will?" Being excluded can cause your daughter to question if there is something wrong with them. They may also blame themselves or feel damaged, and it can affect their self-esteem, mood, and overall well-being.

Always make sure your teen is not being bullied, and in females, it is known as relational aggression, and a trained therapist or the school counselor can assist with this. 

Research has shown that peer group ostracism can actually be experienced as physical pain by the brain. It can also have negative psychological outcomes, such as increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Adolescent girls who experienced social exclusion were more likely to engage in self-harm. A study published in the journal Social Development found that teenage girls who experienced social exclusion had more difficulty forming new friendships and maintaining existing ones.

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Start by managing your own anger and pain

Helping your daughter when her friends have cut her out of the friend group or started rumors about her is extremely challenging. You first need to manage your feelings about what happened, as it is likely you know this friend group well, and you need to find a way to support your daughter, without getting too emotionally involved.

So how do you help your teen and not make things worse when they share that their friends want to break up with them?

Here are six tips to help you navigate the pain of exclusion and ostracism by their peer group

1. Be compassionate and kind and don't minimize their pain 

Oftentimes, what seems obvious to us, such as they were really not such great friends, they were unkind to her…., is not obvious to your teen, and pointing that out, makes them feel even more ostracized and misunderstood. 

2. Listen without judgment

Your teen does not want a lecture about their friend choice and if they had stayed friends with their elementary friends, they would not be in this situation. In these situations, they want their parent just to listen and hear their side of the story. Reflective listening, such as “I heard you say that she told you she didn’t like your friend Chloe, and you defended her, and you think maybe that caused problems. Tell me more about that if you like. This kind of communication opens dialogues with your child, rather than shutting them down.  Children are meant to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. 

3. Cultivate an evolutionary approach to friendships

The friends we had when we were 6, are not necessarily friendships we have at 12. Our interests change, we connect with people who we may have more in common with, and who can relate to more. Rather than always feeling frustrated with someone and forcing things to work, despite very little in common, explain to your teen that sometimes we need to let go so they can find their path and likewise, your child can also find who meets their emotional needs more.

Friendships change, grow, and sometimes end, but that does not reflect on us as something we are doing wrong. It can actually be healthy and a sign of their maturity. 

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4. See it as an opportunity for growth

not a personal flaw they have and something that they will carry throughout their life.  Reminding them that most people have lost friends they have cared for due to reasons that are not their own. People change, and friends may prioritize other people or things in their life. 

5. Less is more

Quality is better than having a large group of friends. In the age of FOMO, there is this idea that you should be surrounded by a lot of friends, always smiling and doing tons of things. Well, that is often a formula for unhappiness and alienation.

When our goal is just to have people around us, rather than really cultivating our friendships and forming deeper bonds with friends, alienation and ostracism are more likely to happen. If your daughter is an empath, it can feel even more overwhelming to feel she needs to have tons of friends around and create rifts with friends. 

6. Don't place blame

In an attempt to help, sometimes parents focus on, "Well, remember I told you to call her and talk about that incident", or "Well, that’s what happens when you forget your friend’s birthday!" As you can imagine — not helpful. No one responds well to criticism, regardless of how well intending it is.

Asking her about what she liked in the friendships, what she did not like, and if anything, what might she do differently, and what type of friends does she want to seek out in the future. Foster curiosity and her own inner dialogue about the situation, as opposed to you acting as the expert and knowing what happened with her friends. 

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Monica Ramunda, LPC, LCMHC, is the founder of Sacred Healing Journeys. She offers Midlife Women’s retreats focused on helping women reinvent and thrive, as well as support for clients interested in exploring Ketamine-Assisted Therapy and psychedelic therapy