Straight Talk Advice

Mar 18, 2014

Daughter melts down: “My friends hate me”

Dear Straight Talk: I'm a single father and my daughter is (or was) a well-adjusted sophomore. Now, she refuses to go to school. When I insist, she locks herself in her room and cries. I'm at a loss and must get to work myself. She says "the girls" (her friends) hate her, which seems ridiculous, they are such nice girls. I think she has blown something out of proportion. How do I talk sense into her? We are going on day three. I did call the school and they aren't aware of problems. —Frustrated Dad near Auburn, Calif.

Ashley 25, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

Girls don't fight like guys, where they throw a couple punches and it's over. No, girls go behind your back, hold grudges (for years), turn friends against each other — all in an amazingly sneaky way. If she's saying her friends hate her, listen, because something is real there. You both need a solution to get her back to school. This could blow over, or it could be bigger than you think. Transferring schools should be an option. Your daughter needs a safe, un-bullied environment in order to learn. See if she'll talk with a counselor.

Brie 22, San Francisco Ask me a question

Girls can be cruel. I hated high school after my girlfriends turned against me and spread false rumors. I considered switching schools, but realized I was better than them. (Someday I'll go see what they did with their lives.) To your daughter: You can get through this. It's okay to be friends with the “nerds” (the cool kids' future bosses). High school goes by quickly, and in college, “mean girls” are gone. I'm glad I rose above them instead of falling down with them.

Moriah 17, Rutland, Vt. Ask me a question

Talk to her! If you open the conversation non-assumingly, we are usually willing. Let her know you don't understand how she's feeling — and want to. There is nothing we hate more than parents pretending to understand when they don't.

Molly 22, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

Teenagers have crazy chemical changes going on. I felt like the whole world was out to get me. No matter how unreasonable it seems to you, it's very real for her. She may have gotten into a fight and no girl took her side — or they are making her life miserable while putting on a nice face. You need to find out what happened and help her navigate.

Leah 21, Yuba City, Calif. Ask me a question

School officials rarely know anything because students fear worsening things by speaking up. Also, these girls may be nice to you while showing a different face to others. Take your daughter seriously. If she's locking herself in her room, consider a transfer.

Brandon 21, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Were you ever bullied or harassed in high school? Girls need sympathy! Don't assume she blew something out of proportion. Our community's so-called “pageant queens” are the rudest to their peers, while being angels to adults. That said, we don't know the situation. Talk to her sympathetically and help her.

Dear Dad: Listen to the panel. Guys fight in the open — often becoming friends afterward. Girl fights are cloaked, cruel, and relentless. Another difference: Girl bullies tend to be popular, boy bullies less so. Usually the alpha female is jealous of something. Take this seriously. Get computers and smart phones out of her bedroom and check her texts and social-networking sites for bullying. Call the school again. Don't ask if there's a problem, tell them there is one. Girls indeed respond more to “sympathetic” parenting, so shift your approach. If there's no improvement soon, suggest a transfer (and counseling). Also, girls need other girls, so have her join an activity that bonds her to girls outside school. 

Editor's Note: To a dad, the way girls fight can seem like something from a jewelry store, the whole thing beautiful and tidy as a pearl — on the outside, anyway. He very likely won't recognize it, even when told about it. Even Mom's can forget how invisibly cruel the nicest, shiniest adolescent girl can be. Another thing dads may not realize, or moms can forget is how much teenage girls need other girls for support. All girls benefit from an outside extracurricular activity that gives them a different group of girls to bond with than the ones in school.

Take a girl seriously who claims her friends hate her or are spreading false or misleading rumors. You can bet something real is happening. If it's going to resolve it will fairly soon, and if not, well, it very likely won't, or will take a big toll before it does. While some girls can "steel" themselves through something like this, others can't — and it doesn't mean they won't grow up to be strong eventually. It's a vulnerable time coming into womanhood, and every girl is different. Also, there is a lot to absorb academically that determines college and future outcomes. If the girl wants to transfer schools, help her make it happen. Better to start fresh where one can feel safe, find friends, and be able to think instead of worrying about emotional survival, or adopting negative coping techniques. —Lauren

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  1. By Nicole, age 23, from Santa Rosa, CA on 03/18/2014

    Dad—I suggest an honest conversation with her. Put away your ideas and preconceptions about her friends, and listen to her truth. Listen to where she is ‘right now’. You must be very careful to not pass judgment on her words. She is in a very vulnerable and difficult place right now in high school. If she knows you are trying to understand where she is coming from, she may begin to trust your support and go back to school. But, if you continue to try and ‘talk sense’ into her, you will only push her further away.

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  2. By Janine, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 03/21/2014

    Dear Frustrated Dad:

    You need to take this seriously and not brush it off as simply blowing something out of proportion.  My sister started acting like this, acting depressed, saying that nobody liked her, and rarely leaving our room. Our parents and I brushed it off as “going through a phase.”  However, things didn’t improve.  She also stopped eating and since we share a room, I could see that her body was wasting away when she was nude, but it wasn’t so obvious when she had clothes on as has been written about in other Straight Talk columns.  She finally tried to commit suicide.  It was a rather feeble attempt by trying to take an overdose of pills and I think it was really a call for help.  She is now getting the help she needs, but it wouldn’t have had to go this far if we had taken the signs seriously when we saw them.  I feel really guilty and think I’m the most responsibile since I was closest to the situaiton since we share a room, and I was the only one who saw her nude and saw how her body was wasting away. 

    Since your daughter a girl, I assume that you don’t (and shouldn’t) see her nude, but you should look for signs like not eating and appearing to get thinner and prolonged behavior such as you describe.  If she gets over it in a short time, it’s probably nothing to be that worried about, but if it continues, you should insist on getting her help before something bad happens.

    Janine

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 03/29/2014

      Janine—Your letter is very valuable. I’m glad your sister is now getting the help she needed and I guarantee that your sharing of this will make others pay attention or take action sooner. When a girl says nobody likes her and won’t leave her room, SOMETHING REAL IS GOING ON! Thank you for saying it like nobody else can. Bless you.—Love, Lauren

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  3. By Anon, age 78, from Northern Calif. on 03/24/2014

    PLEASE, GET THIS CHILD TO A GOOD COUNSELOR ASAP!
    TWO MONTHS BEFORE OUR DAUGHTER WAS TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL SHE TOLD US SHE WAS DROPPING OUT.
    I TOLD HER OUR FAMILY DIDN’T DO THAT.

    WE HAD SOME HEATED DISCUSSIONS IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS. WE FINALLY ALLOWED HER TO DROP OUT ONLY IF SHE WOULD FINISH THE YEAR IN CONTINUATION SCHOOL.

    ABOUT TWO YEARS LATER SHE CONFIDED THAT IF WE HAD MADE HER CONTINUE SHE WOULD HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE!

    WE KNEW SHE WAS NOT HAPPY IN HIGH SCHOOL, BUT HAD NO IDEA SHE WAS THIS TROUBLED. THIS WAS 25 YEARS AGO, AND WE WERE NOT HEARING A LOT ABOUT BULLYING, BUT THAT WAS THE PROBLEM AND IT WAS BAD.

    THANK GOD WE FINALLY LISTENED TO HER AND WORKED OUT A COMPROMISE.

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  4. By Warren, age 25, from Nashville, Mi. on 03/25/2014

    I think the first step would be to talk to her. Try to understand what happened to make her feel that way. Once you have a better idea, it will be easier to help her.

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  5. By Ochatre, age 23, from Kampala, Uganda on 03/27/2014

    I believe with a good communication “Frustrated Dad” will be able to come up with the reason behind her daughters situation.

    I have a personal quote, “In life you have to use what you have to get what you want. Many times we look very far for solutions to our problems yet the best solution is within us.”

    Some parents will be shocked when the actual reason for problems is at home, with him, or even with his daughter. First look at home, then look around the other external reasons (school, friends etc).

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  6. By Cynthia, age unlisted, from Cloverdale, CA on 04/06/2014

    Dear Lauren—I read and enjoy your column and almost always agree with your advice—which is why I want to tell you I was disappointed with this column.

    I have a ton of women friends, many of whom go back a million years. They are strong, funny, loving and incredibly supportive, not just of me, but of women in general. The line “Girl fights are cloaked, cruel and relentless” encourages your young readers, the young women, to expect the worst from each other, and in my opinion, feeds a stereotype.

    I know there are mean girls, just as there are mean boys. In my experience that comes, as you noted, from jealousy, which comes from unhappiness. Hurt people hurt people, as a friend once said.

    Thank you for the good work you do, Lauren. It’s much appreciated.—Best Wishes, Cynthia

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