Girls' Power Plays: How to Help Your Daughter Cope

I'm sure you feel reassured when your daughter gets invited to parties and sleepovers regularly, pals around with her best friends and dashes to the phone because once again it's for her. But every one of these joyful experiences has a devastating flip side: exclusion from the parties, the breakup with the best friend, excommunication from the clique without a moment's notice. These power plays are all important adolescent rites of passages. As devastating as they are, they're inevitable and they provide opportunities for growth.

Uninvited to the birthday party: Somewhere in early adolescence the birthday party morphs from the free-for-all at the town park or bowling alley into a major social signifier that reinforces the girls' social hierarchy. Many girls want to have a party more because of the attention they get leading up to it than the party or presents themselves. The birthday girl gets to be Queen Bee for the day as she decides (in consultation with her best friends) who'll be invited and who'll be left out.

Exiled from the group: One day your daughter will go to school and her group of friends will have decided that she's no longer one of them. Or it may happen to one of her best friends in the clique. Sometimes there's a nominal reason for expulsion -- she palled around with the "wrong" person or committed some other act of high treason. Sometimes there's no easily identifiable reason except that the leaders of the group decide she no longer belongs. Whenever and whyever it happens, it's devastating. Girls come away from these experiences learning that girls -- even the ones you think are your true-blue friends -- can turn on you on a whim.

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