Monday night, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by psychotherapist and author Katie Hurley. Her latest book ‘No More Mean Girls – the secret to raising strong, confident and compassionate girls ’ delves into the realms of relational aggression and how it is starting among girls at a younger age than ever before. In her research and collaboration with experts from around the world it is clear that young women are facing greater challenges in their social interactions which is having a negative impact on mental and emotional health.
The increased use of technology and the ease with which cyber bullying can occur are prevalent factors in the social interactions that most girls experience today. A rumor or photo once shared with a quick click can become instant public humiliation and a destroyer of lifelong friendships. Exclusion from the social group is one of the biggest and most damaging forms of social aggression that our girls are facing. Girls are often left to flounder alone in an environment that can instantly become dangerous and emotionally damaging.
Adults need to teach, model and help girls to navigate the relational world that they live in. Helping girls to understand the concepts of empathy and kindness and how they can be incorporated into their social interactions both in person and online are crucial to the development of healthy relationships. Educating girls about what mean behavior looks like, how they can not be part of the problem and helping them understand steps to being a solution will help strengthen their connections.
Hurley claims that girls can be the change in their own social worlds by:
- Being the ‘upstander’
- Refuting the rumors
- Meeting negative comments with positive ones
- Saying something nice to the victim
- Involving adults
Fortunately overnight camp provides girls with the opportunity to develop face to face relationships, to be tech free for a few weeks, to work through hard social situations with the support of caring adults and to continue to grow their self-esteem and self-worth. We must commit to helping girls navigate the complex social world that they live in, help them to not be the ‘mean girl,’ recognize when relational aggression is happening and stand up when they can.
For more from Katie Hurley and a ton more great articles check out her website