Each week Marcy Winograd and Jackie Hirtz, educators with over 20 years of experience working with students from elementary to high school, will answer your questions regarding reading strategies, essay writing, homework habits and math challenges. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include Dear Marcy and Jackie in the subject line.
Q. I'm worried about my daughter who recently confided that she spends every lunch period in the library at her high school. I'm concerned that she's hiding out because she doesn't have any friends. She had a few close friends in middle school, but now she says all they care about is being liked by boys, make-up, clothes, lingerie, etc. Superficial things. She comes home from school depressed and doesn't want to talk much. I ache for my daughter. What can I do?
A. You have good reason to worry because teenage isolation can lead to serious depression. The good news, however, is that your daughter confided in you and reached out for support during this painful period. First and foremost, listen deeply to your daughter. Give her your full attention without any distractions and restate her concerns, so that she knows you are listening. Once she knows you've heard her, ask a reflective question, such as, "Are there any other girls in your classes that you think you might enjoy as friends?"
Encourage your daughter to make new friends by reaching out to girls who may have stood on the periphery of her circle of friends. Perhaps there are others she knows who have a broader range of interests, from the environment to animal welfare. Some girls, when faced with a similar situation, will separate themselves from the "fast" group and bond with the more goal-oriented peers. For others, like your daughter, it's not so easy and some guidance is needed.
You can support your daughter's extracurricular school activities by praising her talents and interests and asking which school clubs and organizations she may want to join where she can meet others with similar interests. According to womenssportsfoundation.org, research suggests that teenage girls who participate in sports are more self-confident and less likely to act out. If your daughter isn't involved in sports, you may want to practice mother-daughter basketball at the park or enroll in group tennis lessons so she can meet new friends.
For additional advice, see a mental health professional.
Credentialed in both English and social science, Marcy Winograd now teaches special education students at Venice High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Jackie Hirtz, MS Ed., a writer and writing coach, taught elementary school for seven years. Together, Marcy and Jackie have written for children's television, print, and new media. Their most recent project is the tween novel Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush, available on Amazon. They also blog at lolazola.com and tweet @tweenorama.