I am teaching my young teen daughter to be a “sister.” When you’re a sister, you help your fellow females out. These are the girls—and later women—who have fulfilling relationships and a cohesive group of friends who look out for each other. Here’s how I’m teaching my daughter to be that friend, the sister-friend:
1. Share Your Survival Goods
No woman is an island. Middle school is the time when a girl’s period comes anytime, anyplace and almost always when she’s wearing light-colored pants. At the beginning of middle school, I supplied my daughter with a little survival kit. I filled a small, discreet makeup bag with pads, a tampon or two, a few wipes and a small, travel-size deodorant. I instructed my daughter that if she noticed anyone—even someone she may not be particularly close to—having a menstrual or hygiene crisis to help her. Be bold, pull her aside, and offer up your supplies, even if it’s your last tampon. You can always refill.
2. No Girl Left Behind. No Girl Leaves Ahead.
If another girl is at a party, or outside waiting to be picked up, you should never leave her alone. It’s a sad statement about the world we live in, but the truth is, bad things can happen when girls get separated from their friends. Wait until you know for certain a friend is safe, and that doesn’t mean leaving her with a guy you think you can trust. Safe means being picked up by a parent or an older sibling, or taken home by you. You also consider yourself and your friends a package deal. When they go, you go. When they stay, you stay. Yes, even if you’re jealous that the boy you like is giving your friend all of the attention, her safety trumps your righteous indignation over him choosing her.
Speaking from my own experience, the one time I let a friend go off alone with a guy, I got a bad feeling about it and tried calling her. When she didn’t answer her phone, I went to her apartment and knocked on the door. Sure enough, she was in trouble. I had gotten there just in time.
3. Competition Divides
It’s natural to occasionally find yourself in competition for things like sports teams or student government. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I’m talking about boys. Don’t compete for boys. When you’re 14, chances are he won’t become your husband. The bond of a female friendship usually outlasts a teenage romantic relationship by a long shot. Bow out gracefully, even when it hurts. Take time to heal yourself, but maintain the bond with your friend. Side note: If the guy tries to get with you later on, news flash, he’s a loser.
4. Make the Time
When it’s you in a relationship, make time for your girlfriends. Head-over-heels happens, but your girlfriends want you to come up for air once in a while and show them they are still important to you. Because when you break up…
5. Pick Up the Phone
When a friend who needs you calls at 3 a.m., answer the phone. You’d want the same from her. And let’s be honest, your smartphone is tucked under your pillow anyway.
The middle and high school years are filled with ups and downs and, unfortunately, real risks. What better way for our daughters to grow up than with a group of girlfriends who will celebrate their victories, look out for them and offer them a shoulder to lean on. If we impart these values to our girls, they will grow into women who are strong, supportive allies to each other—like sisters.