• Other Friendship Advice

Tips on Talking to a Teenage Daughter About Friendships

Published: October 6, 2010 | Last Updated: January 27, 2023 By | 5 Replies Continue Reading

A mom asks for help on talking to a teenage daughter about friendships.


Dear Dr. Levine,

My daughter is in high school and has had problems keeping friends since elementary school. From what I have observed, when her friends are at our home, she can be bossy and opinionated, but she is fun to be with.

However, there is constant drama. This past summer, she received an anonymous “hate letter” that left her reeling and feeling like she had no friends except for a new best friend.

It’s hard to believe her side of the story every time as it can’t always be everyone else’s fault, but how do I help her?

She is a beautiful girl, always looks put together and stylish, always has a boyfriend, and tends to befriend girls who are much less attractive than she is. I feel as though she is seeking out these types of friendships because she is insecure and she feels better about herself if she is the most attractive in her group. But it always backfires because she doesn’t have anything in common with them.

When I offer suggestions on how to handle things, she just tells me I don’t understand (which is true as I don’t recall girls being so cruel).

She is a senior at an all-girl’s high school, and I really want to help her have a good year. What can I do? I wish I could be invisible and see what’s really going on. It’s going to be a long year if things don’t improve.

Signed, Sara


Dear Sara,

Female friendships tend to be filled with complexity and drama during the child and the teen years because girls are growing, constantly changing, and learning about themselves. Subsequently, it’s not uncommon for friendships to develop quickly and to be short lived. For example, a friendship may be based upon sharing a class or activity together and when that class or activity ends, so does the friendship.

As you know, friendship is a two-way street and if your daughter is seeking out friends who are less attractive (physically and/or in other ways), who have little in common, and whom she can boss around, these girls are gravitating to her, too (perhaps to enhance their own status).

Over time, your daughter will realize she has a great deal to offer as a person and will become more confident and, in turn, choose friends and with whom she feels more equal and with whom she has more in common. While your daughter seems skilled in making friends, she may need to learn to temper her tendency to be bossy and opinionated if she wants to keep them.

Receiving an anonymous hate letter has to be unsettling but it provides an opportunity for you both to talk about the topic of friendship.

Ask your daughter what she thinks makes a good friend and talk about it. This will accomplish two things: She will begin thinking about the kind of friends she wants to have and if she has been a good friend in the past. It may take awhile, but I expect she will start to evaluate her own behaviors with her friends and adjust her actions accordingly.

It sounds as if you and your daughter have already talked to each other, which is wonderful and so important.

Tips on talking to a teenage daughter about friendships

  • Teens are struggling to become independent so they usually resent being lectured to by adults (even if you are providing well-intended advice.) To keep the lines of communication open, resist the temptation to tell her exactly what to do or whom she should befriend.
  • Instead, listen to what she has to say, reflect her feelings back to her.
  • Offer examples of situations that happened to you or someone you know (“I have a friend whose daughter is in high school and she got into a fight with a friend. Her daughter felt….”).
  • Give her time and space. Figuring out how to resolve the friendship problems she’s having now on her own, with your support and guidance, is part of growing up.

If you talk to your own friends who have daughters the same age, I think you will find they have similar stories to tell. It sounds as if you really are connected to your daughter and want the best for her. Remind her (and yourself) that she will be out in the bigger world soon and high school is a narrow and, at times, difficult slice of life.

Hope this helps.

Best,  Irene

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about Teen Friendships:

Tags: , , ,

Category: Helping children deal with friendship problems

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. S.B. says:

    What about the teen who has few friends because she won’t open up? My high school senior is an only child who is more comfortable at home with her parents. She’s an athlete but is not close to any of her teammates. They have gone out of their way to be friends with her. She keeps to herself at school. She has a tendency to befriend other low self esteem kids whom she quickly dismisses if they do something she doesn’t like. I’m sure it’s self defense: we had to move her abruptly in the middle of her last year in junior high school when my husband lost his job. We moved across country away from her childhood home and friends. She graduates soon and will be attending college out of state. We are worried about her well being. How will she survive college and college sports when making friends is not a priority for her?

  2. Toni Vitanza says:

    Good advice given by irene here. I would add that there is no mention in this mother’s letter of extracurricular activities or interests on the part of this daughter. This should be a huge part of her high school experience and offers so much in the way of friendships. Kids in band, drama club, Scouts, etc., have automatic common interests. Common interests would negate some of this godawful emphasis on looks. I’m assuming that part of the reason any parent would choose an all-girls school would be to DE-emphasize that stuff. Well, de-emphasize it and help your daughter do so as well. This girl also needs some “service learning.” She needs to go out and do something to help people who don’t have her advantages. And quick.

  3. Irene says:

    Your points are well-taken! Yes, moms need to help daughters understand what makes a person "attractive" and it isn’t always looks.

    Thanks for your comments.




  4. Anonymous says:

    That was my first thought when I read the article. How shallow to make it about looks. That didn’t settle to well with me either. I would hope the mother would teach her that friendships shouldn’t be build on looks and that a real friendship is build on mutual respect for one another.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the mother should talk about how to be a good friend and not about how equal level of attractiveness is what should define good friendships.

    If this girl is getting hate mail, maybe it is because she bossy and opinionated, not because she is attractive. Just something to consider.

    I am not saying there are not two sides of the story here, but I had a very visceral reaction to the answer being – well she is attractive, that is why they hate her.

    Being attractive in a physical sense is not what bonds people or friends, maybe if that is what is being taught to people, it is not surprising that there is a disconnect.

    No matter what level of attractiveness, just jumping to someone being jealous is silly. Maybe jumping to how you speak to people and get your point accross so people feel well treated is a better way to do it.

Leave a Reply