Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back to School Resolution #4: Make New Friends

Part four of the series Top Ten Back to School Resolutions for tweens and their parents:

Back to School Resolution #4: Make new friends.

Or, "Hang out with new people but still keep in touch with old friends." A new school year and/or a new school also means an opportunity to meet new people. While that can be scary, it's also something that tweens can find energizing. What struck me most when hearing this resolution from tweens was how universal this goal is – I heard it from sporty girls, drama girls, rocker girls, city girls, country girls – all around. Tweens are still working out who they are and exploring a variety of interests, and social groupings are often still fluid. It makes sense that tweens still want to meet people from a wide variety of backgrounds with different interests.

As parents, we are often left wondering when our little girl in pigtails who loves soccer and glitter was replaced by the sullen and moody changeling in front of us – and then by how fast she returned. Such is the nature of pre-adolescence. We cannot choose her friends anymore than we can choose her interests, but we can help her navigate how to form and keep friendships. Social skills are still developing, and tweens are trying to make sense of all the dynamics around them. Sharing our experiences with friendship and how relationships can change over time lends some perspective. It can be eye-opening to realize that one cannot get everything from one friend, and that having a network of different friends and groups to draw from can be a source of strength and comfort. Authors such as Rachel Simmons (Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl) and Rosalind Wiseman (Queenbees and Wannabes, among others) have done extensive research on the social dynamics of tween girls, and their findings and case studies have broad application for parents and school administrators.

Is your tween nervous or not about meeting new people? How do you help her in this regard? I’d love to hear your Back to School tips for tweens – send me a tweet at or post your comment below.

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