Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Issue - When Sugar and Spice Aren't All Things Nice: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Issue - When Sugar and Spice Aren't All Things Nice: News

Article excerpt

Squabbles between pre-teen girls can seem like the end of the world to the participants. Here's how to defuse the situation.

Being female has never been easy: childbirth, painful high heels and queuing for the toilet are just a few of the trials faced by those of us with two X chromosomes. And although history may have given us many striking examples of female solidarity to make up for this (see the Bronte sisters), it can't be denied that women have a tendency to give their own sex a pretty hard time, particularly at school.

If girls are exceptionally lucky, they glide through the years between 7 and 11 without a hint of emotional turbulence, surrounded by happy friends in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support. At some point in those four years, however, most girls experience "best friend" disputes, jealousy, tightly knit cliques, feelings of exclusion and inadequacy, and all the other emotional roller coasters that pre-teen girls excel in creating.

Unfortunately, the course of girls' friendships never did run smooth. Problems can range from the odd snide look or playground put-down to out- and-out bullying. And while, as a teacher with a jam-packed timetable, it can be tempting to dismiss tearful complaints that "she was looking at me funny" as time-wasting attention-seeking, it is important not to underestimate the trauma that girls experience. So here's how to tackle the particular issues that come with pre-teen girls.

Create awareness

Manufacture opportunities to talk about friendship problems, why they happen and how to solve them. Do this through stories, role plays or class discussions. If there are friendship difficulties between girls in your class, it is often best to talk to them on their own - they are more likely to open up without boys being in the room. Encourage them to use empathy, consider why people say unkind things and suggest ways to solve the problem.

Get some perspective

This is no mean feat. Trying to get pre-teens to keep their problems in proportion can be nigh on impossible. For young girls, friendship issues are all-consuming and often, to their minds, unique to them. Giving examples of girls you have taught previously, citing cases where solutions were found and getting the girls to consider how they will feel about the situation in five or 10 years' time can help them to put it into perspective.

Develop a God complex

You don't need to command a plague of locusts, but persuading the girls that you are all seeing and all knowing will help you to get to the bottom of who did what in friendship squabbles. …

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