Sunday Mail column for Sunday 14 March: FIND YOUR TRIBE
It’s been a disturbing month. Every time I turn around there’s yet another horror story. Bullying that results in a school stabbing. A young girl abducted from her bed and murdered by a family friend. The dangers of on-line paedophiles. And then those ongoing reports on teen binge drinking, body image issues, obesity and promiscuity in kids as young as twelve.
I used to think that high school today was no harder than when I was at school. I don’t think that anymore. I think our teenagers are struggling as much as their parents to navigate their way through.
Over the past three years I’ve received dozens of emails from teenage girls. Many just write to say hello. But others email asking for advice. Meg* wrote about the panic attacks she’d started to suffer before going into exams. Brigid* would pen me hilarious letters during her stay in a health clinic as she dealt with an eating disorder. Shelly* wrote to tell me about the girls in her year 8 class who had started sending naked images of themselves to boys.
It was International Women’s Day on Monday. In the past I’ve written columns full of lessons I want our young women to know for the future. But today I’m going to share with you what I think they need to know NOW to survive those joyful but sometimes brutal high school years.
In a nutshell, you need to find your tribe. In my opinion, the major factor that determines the quality of your high school experience is who you choose to hang around. Your friends. Forget about the cool group. You need to find your tribe. Your tribe are those people who get you. They get your sense of humour, have similar values and interests to you and are genuine friends who care about you and want what’s best for you. Sounds obvious but you need to avoid those so-called friends who slag you off the moment your back is turned, who routinely belittle you or pressure you to do stuff or be someone you’re not. If you find your tribe – even if it’s just one true friend – you have an instant support system at school and you’ll cope much better with whatever high school throws your way.
My new book Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) lists my other nine tips for enjoying your teenage years. They include the importance of bouncing back from disappointment, understanding that not even Miranda Kerr always looks like Miranda Kerr, learning to trust your gut instinct (even when that bad vibe is from a family friend), the value in giving back, the truth that success in life has little to do with your OP score, the risks associated with binge drinking and navigating first love (including the dangers of online romances).
But the biggest lesson is choosing the right friends to hang around. Find your tribe at school and you’re off to a good start.
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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.