Bullies, frenemies, gossips. Few girls make it through adolescence without an encounter with a mean girl. These strategies and talking points will help you set your daughter up for success.

By Liz Loerke
August 15, 2016

We all remember certain painful incidents from childhood and adolescence: the birthday invitation that wasn’t received, the seat that wasn’t saved, the snide comments that embarrassed us or even made us cry. While the latest data from the National Center for Education Studies shows that the number of students who reported being bullied at school decreased by 6 percent from 2011 to 2015, nearly 22 percent of middle and high school students still said they had been bullied. The most common forms of bullying were being made fun of, called names, or insulted and being the subject of rumors—all of which fall under the umbrella of relational aggression, or behavior that is intended to harm people by damaging or manipulating their relationships with others. Girls are particularly savvy at relational aggression, and they demonstrate it early.

“Even in girls as young as 2 or 3 years old, you will see a little girl run away, or plug her ears and close her eyes, when someone makes her mad," explains Rachel Simmons, co-founder of Girls Leadership and author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. “She’s saying, ‘You didn’t do what I want? Then I’m going to remove myself from you and our relationship.’”

As you might expect, that is a very potent weapon. “You cannot underestimate how traumatic and heartbreaking it is when a girl feels that a relationship is threatened or she feels abandoned,” says Simmons. “There is evidence that girls are more likely than boys to base their self-esteem on friendships and that they are more reactive to stress and abandonment in their relationships.”

So what can you do to give your daughter the tools she’ll need to navigate the bumpy road of conflict and bullying? RealSimple.com spoke with experts to find out.

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