Girl Drama :: Navigating Middle School Mayhem

Girl Drama :: Navigating Middle School Mayhem

The girl drama in middle school is a real thing. The combination of hormones, life transitions, and changing relationships can make sixth through eighth grade especially challenging for middle school friendships.

Boys are just different, for the most part. When they’re annoyed with friends, they might exchange words or shove a shoulder, then they get over it in 20 minutes. But for girls, things sting differently, and feelings get hurt often. As a middle school mom trying to navigate the challenges of raising a preteen/teen, I have a few bits of advice for moms of middle schoolers.

Big Feelings

We attended a Growing Up for Girls class through Children’s Hospital many years ago. The nurse who led the class was wonderful and covered the basics of body changes, menstruation, and some of the emotional effects of going through puberty. One of my favorite takeaways from the class was the idea of “Big Feelings,” which basically means that your emotions can feel really large and take over on certain days. They can feel all-consuming. When friends are having big feelings, girls were reminded that this is normal and common and that we should allow others a little bit of grace. My own friends and I joke about rotten days where we experience these big feelings ourselves! Some days, the emotions just feel over-the-top! But they pass, and we know things get better. We can also use this term for our daughters when their day is just not going well. “Are you having big feelings today?” Sometimes they’re for no reason, and that’s ok. Tomorrow will be better.

48 Hours

One week, my daughter was having an especially hard time with something someone said at school, people were talking about her, or making a big deal about something trivial. She was so upset about it that night. So we talked it out (I mostly just do the listening). I explained to her that in life, even for adults, most drama subsides within 48 hours. People get bored of the gossip and move on to something else. Even the person targeted feels better two days later. One night’s sleep does wonders. Two nights can be life-changing. Even after other minor events that popped up during middle school, my daughter would mention to me, “You know, Mom, it really is better in two days.” Take a breath, and realize the drama won’t be as big in a day or two.

Friendships Waiver

Girlfriend groups move and divide, add people in, cut people out. Middle school is such a literal transition from childhood into full teenage-hood. It can be really hard. Girls can be really mean. There is so much self-consciousness going on that emotions are all over the place. During middle school, some of the kids who caused the most issues for my daughter were her closest friends. These were good kids from good families, with parents I knew quite well. We would talk about what happened and how involved (or not involved) my daughter wanted me to be. Usually, she wanted me to stay out of it. Usually, it resolved itself in a few days. I always told her that I was there to interfere if needed, and that I was absolutely going to have adult conversations with parents if something got severe enough or if someone would be hurt. Thankfully, it never got to that.

It Gets Better

My own mother has recounted stories of us growing up and always assures me that it gets better in high school. Girls have figured themselves out a little bit more, tensions have lessened, the hormone spikes have settled down some. Girl groups seem to figure themselves out some by high school. Maybe people are more welcoming or less tense, in general. But high school does seem to get easier for the girl friendships.

Feeling Heard

One thing I’ve gathered from all of the girl drama events we’ve experienced is that, ultimately, my daughter just wants to feel heard. I welcome the open communication and try to react as little as possible. I listen patiently, allowing her to vent, and trying not to make any judgement (these current enemies could be besties next week, so she may want to defend them later). I remind her that everyone has big feelings and bad days. Everyone deserves some grace. Everyone is tired and moody at this age. I try to support her side of the story and ask if there is anything she wishes she had done differently. I encourage in-person communication and not passive-aggressive text messages or anything that can be screen shot for proof or retaliation, misinterpreted, or forwarded to others. Conflict resolution the old-fashioned way is usually best: talking it out.

Three Options

When it really comes down to it, life drama usually results in one of three options. I ask my daughter to consider what has happened and then pick her option.

Option 1: do nothing, say nothing, and let it go. Sometimes this is the best course of action.

Option 2: say something directly to the person and ask for an apology, a resolution, or have a discussion about what happened. Trying to resolve it yourself is mature and a great thing to practice.

Option 3: if it’s too big for you to handle, get an adult involved. Sometimes this is the only way. As a parent, I reserve the right to sometimes say it’s time for adult intervention.

When at all possible, I ask my daughter to pick her option. Sometimes she has to think about it. Sometimes she knows right away. These choices are the beginning of figuring out how to handle conflict that will arise for her entire life.

Save the Drama for Your Mama

Except don’t. The moms really don’t want any of the drama. We want our girls (and boys) to be happy, friendly, uplifting people and to have fun, carefree lives at school. When that isn’t a reality, we can be strong, (mostly) silent, supportive sounding boards for our daughters. And remind them to always chose the high road and give grace wherever they can.


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