Be The Safe Harbour
What was the most popular post from me in 2022? This one.
So many schools emailed me asking for a copy that I turned it into a free PDF (there’s a version for girls and a gender-neutral version). You can find my BE THE SAFE HARBOUR PDFs here: https://rebeccasparrow.com/free-resources/
That’s what I say every month to the 12-14 year olds in our Bluestockings Society online book club. We read a different book every month and they also do cooking, a bit of yoga or meditation and I do an Ask Me Anything with them on Zoom once a month.
The questions are pretty much always about friendship.
My best friend from primary school has gone off with a new person and now I’m alone.
My two best friends keep teasing me calling me skinny and making fun of the fact I haven’t got my period yet.
This one girl in my friendship group keeps slapping me. How do I tell her to stop?
I hang out in a group of three but the other two keep ganging up on me.
A new person has joined our group and they’re a bit annoying and show-offy. We don’t want to be mean but how do we ask them to stop hanging with us?
It’s interesting. I get that last question quite a lot. Some form of “this new person has joined our group and we don’t want them there …”
Not so long ago a parent emailed me asking for advice about her daughter who was struggling having a new person joining their group. This new girl wasn’t causing trouble, it was more that she was quiet and a bit boring and didn’t share any of their interests.
Here’s what I wrote back ….
I just want to acknowledge how hard this is. It’s really really hard. But here’s the thing … there will come a time in your daughter’s life when she is the person who is looking for a safe harbour. It might not be when she’s at school. It might be at an out of school club. At university. A job. As a school mum. But a time will come when she is just trying to find a place to sit. Those moments – which happen to all of us at some point – are excruciating and painful and lonely.
If the toughest thing that your daughter goes through during her schooling years is having a girl she doesn’t gel with sit with her group — then she’s pretty much won high school in my books. I understand she wants to be with her friends and share those in-jokes and private conversations … I get it. I really do. And I don’t want to dismiss your daughter’s feelings of discomfort. But can she remember a time when she felt alone and needed somewhere to sit?
I think it’s actually a tiny sacrifice to include this girl who – trust me – KNOWS she doesn’t fit in or belong.
Make space. We want to teach our kids to sit in horseshoes not circles – as Glennon Doyle says. We want the fallback position to always be — we have room for one more. And we will include you with good grace rather than through gritted teeth.
Trust me — I know how hard that can feel at 13 or 14 or 15.
My guess is that this will be a short term thing. This girl will hang out with your daughter’s group until she eventually finds a place that is her natural fit. Until then, try to welcome her. And focus on what positive qualities she brings with her rather than zooming in on how she doesn’t fit.
High school is the long game. And the power of kindness must never be underestimated.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.