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NLU Professor Shares 'Five Signs a Clique is Making Your Girl Miserable, and How to Respond'

October Marks National Bullying Prevention Month and brings attention to cliques and other forms of bullying



 With school once again in session, many girls may be dealing with the reality of facing ridicule or shame at the hands of cliques. Girls in fifth grade through high school often endure emotional pain, depression and isolation because of their school’s “Mean Girls.” Wytress Richardson, Ed.D. a behavioral scientist and associate professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at National Louis University, Chicago, offers her perspective on cliques and a checklist of “Five Signs a Clique is Making a Teen Girl Miserable, and How to Respond.”


Richardson has chosen to dedicate her professional life’s work to helping others reach their full potential, and holds a very personal view of the “Mean Girls” phenomenon. When Richardson’s daughter was in seventh grade, a group of girls tried to lure her into their clique, only to physically attack her and beat her up. To counter this type of bullying, Richardson founded Girls of Grace Youth Center, a Chicago non-profit organization that helps girls become centered in their own self-worth.

Why do girls form cliques? “It begins with them wanting to fit in, to be cool, popular and liked,” Richardson said. “But if they see a kid who’s quirky, they bully her to make themselves feel better.” Adolescent hormones and social media only serve to fuel the problem.


Following are Richardson’s Five Signs a Clique is Making a Teen Girl Miserable, and How to Respond:


1.     Irritability and Bursts of Anger. When children are feeling pressured to fit in, they may become testy. This can be a defense mechanism and a sign of fear, Richardson cautioned. Ask your daughter questions, be supportive and help her to process the emotions. Sometimes talking about the situation, and other kids’ motivations, may be enough to help her feel better.


2.     Isolation. If your daughter or another teen girl refuses to deal with others, she may be trying to process the fact others have ostracized her. It’s good for her to work through her problems, but if she is being pressured to join a clique or taunted by a clique, intervene before it’s too late.


3.     Sudden Interest in New Friends. Leaving old friendships or forming new ones can stress your child. She may face pressure to do things that don’t fit her character in order to “fit in.” Spend time with your girl and her friends, and get to know their parents.


4.     Unusually Drastic Changes in Behaviors. These may include becoming self-absorbed and self-centered, lacking empathy or acquiring a superior attitude. Be aware of the temperature of your child’s friendships and romantic relationships. “Cliques can easily form over boys, ‘he said she said’ situations and popularity competitions,” Richardson said.


5.     Focused on a Specific Way of Dressing. A teen girl who dresses provocatively or wears heavy makeup may be trying to imitate other girls. Insist your daughter dress age-appropriately, and stop her in her tracks if she tries to leave the house looking inappropriate.

If you suspect your daughter is being harmed by belonging to a clique, or is being victimized by a clique, step in and address the issue, contact school authorities, connect with a local community organization offering youth counseling, an independent therapist, or even the Crisis Call Center at 800-273-8255, or text ANSWER to 839863.


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