My daughter only just started 5th grade but already I can see things shifting, especially interests (she wants to know about make-up and movie star magazines! Oh my!). Also friendship groups are changing back and forth and back again, with reports of cattiness that makes me wonder if she's exaggerating, but then again....maybe not. She's not miserable (at least not yet) and she's still telling me about it, but it's very hard for me to know how to respond, and I wonder how much longer she will confide in me. Suggestions, please!
From: Florabelle, Fort Lauderdale
Yeah, this is a tough stage and one that typically blind-sides parents. It's so common that various names have been coined to describe it, from the Mean & Nasties, to Gossip Wars, when girls are just as you describe: catty, mean and downright nasty to each other. The age at which it can start depends entirely on the friendship group, which can be influenced by: 1., the existence of older sisters; 2. moms whose role-modeling includes gossip and pettiness; 3. screen time that includes programming that encourages girls to grow up early.
Now's the time, while she's still turning to you, to let her know that you are available to talk about anything. I And I do mean anything. Don't shy away from the tough subjects (thongs! French kissing! oral sex!) even when you are shocked. Just because she brings up a topic doesn't mean she wants to engage in it, or even knows what she's asking. It just means she's heard the words. Give her a truthful, age appropriate response. It will benefit your credibility and your relationship in ways you can't even begin to know. The worst answer you can give her, ever: "You're too young to be asking about that!" The best answer when you are dumb-founded by the question: "Let me think about that and get back to you."
know I've mentioned this before, but let me again recommend a wonderful website, New Moon Girls and its sister site, daughters.com. New Moon is written for and by tween-age girls. daughters.com is for moms. The current article is titled, "How to be your daughter's best friend -- and parent." Sounds like it was written for you!
There are many books for you, including a new one called, "Girlology's There's something new about you," that's meant for moms to read with daughters.
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
About the author
Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.