What Do I Do When My Daughter Comes Home Upset?

What Do I Do When My Daughter Comes Home From School Upset?

If there’s one question we get asked more than any other, it’s this: what do I do when my daughter is upset about a conflict with a friend or teammate?

As parents, we’re wired to protect our kids, so our first (understandable) instinct is to throw ourselves into solving the problem for her. Maybe we dish out advice, offer to call the other parent, or email the school. But it’s also our job as parents to teach our children how to manage their social challenges. To do that, we’ve got to give them a combination of skills — the know-how — and confidence — the belief that I can do it if I try.

In other words, our job is to cultivate resilience in our girls: the ability to handle stress and adversity in productive ways. Over the last twenty years, research has found that children and adolescents are struggling with resilience (particularly those in the middle class), leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

When we try to solve our girls’ problems for them, we send the message that they can’t resolve conflicts on their own. We also tend to make the situation worse. In this video, we share alternatives to getting involved as a first step. By delaying your intervention, and allowing your daughter to wrestle with her options, you have the opportunity to help her:

  • Recognize that all relationships involve some hurt, disappointment, and setbacks, giving her a more realistic set of expectations and healthier definition of friendship.
  • Consider multiple strategies to respond, allowing her to flex her problem-solving muscles.
  • Reflect on her feelings before acting, developing her emotional intelligence. Many Girls Leadership families keep the How Do You Feel / Como Te Sientes poster around to help during just these kind of tough days.
  • Validate her feelings by affirming them with her, increasing her confidence to act.

This video introduces a way to approach social challenges with your daughter that you can use in almost any difficult situation. We urge you to use these tactics again and again; over time, with practice, your daughter will eventually begin having the conversation “with herself.” In other words, she’ll begin to use these strategies on her own.

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If you are worried about your child’s safety, or are concerned she is being bullied, immediate intervention is always the best course of action.

Asking What She Wants to Do Builds Resilience: Wondering what to do after your daughter starts brainstorming some brilliant or terrible solutions to her challenge? Sign up for our newsletter to receive new, upcoming videos on how to role play at home.

Think About It: How do you tend to respond when your daughter is upset about something that happened with a peer? In what way does that response cultivate or pose a challenge to her resilience? When you were a child, what kind of help did your parents or guardians offer you? Has that influenced the way you react to your daughter?

Talk About It: Use these questions to start a conversation with girls about how you respond to her social challenges.

  • When you have a problem with a friend, what is one thing you wish adults like me would do more of?
  • What do you wish we did less of?

Further Resources:

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg’s “7 C’s” of Resilience for parents

The books of Dr. Wendy Mogel


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  1. Jean Rogers

    This is an awful poster. Less than 1 in 5 emojis are neutral or positive. What are you thinking? ?

    Girls don’t need much help naming negative feelings.

    Thanks for making them “in your face”. I would never put this in my daughters room. You are a bunch of professional coaches and therapists trying to train girls at a young age to be biased to identify their negative emotions so they need your help. Wow. What a scam.

    • Dorothy Ponton, Digital Marketing Manager

      Hi Jean,

      Sounds like the poster isn’t a useful tool for you. Research from many organizations has shown that girls struggle to name the full range of their emotions, and feel pressured to be nice, good, and happy. We are always interested in learning what works for parents and caregivers. If there are tools or resources that are great for you and your family, please let us know.

  2. HRB

    Hello, this video was very informative and pragmatic. I am happy to have stumbled across your site. My 6Y0, I just learned, is part of a group of girls that have been consistently being mean to each other at school.

    When I emailed the teacher, I was surprised to learn that this has been an ongoing problem and that even the principal has spoken with the girls about. Unbeknownst to me or the other parents.

    Because of the length of the problem, we agreed the girls should meet and talk through this, but I’m unsure how to facilitate this exactly, so that it’s productive for the kids and also the parents.

    Any guidance on how to manage this conversation I have now scheduled with 5 girls and their parents? Gulp.

    • Dorothy Ponton

      This situation certainly doesn’t sound easy, and meeting the needs of the kids and the parents will be a challenge. It sounds like this conversation might be happening soon, so the first resource that came to mind is Samantha Walravens’ post on Mean Girls in Kindergarten. All of her posts around conflict are excellent.

      If you have more time to prepare, check out what our co-founder, Rachel Simmons, has written about relational aggression in girls. Also helpful are the works of Michele Borba and Rosalind Wiseman.

  3. Michele riggio

    Great article thank you. At 3 1/2 I’m already seeing my daughter have to navigate social situations. At what age can you employ your approach and take a step back?

  4. Kirsten

    This was very interesting – firstly as a good reminder and secondly as a good illustration.

    I noticed that the question came from a man and he had been dealing with it from a man’s point of view: there is a problem, something is broken, I have to fix it.

    Looking at it from a woman’s point of view, for many the first natural response would be to give the girl a hug, ask her to talk about it / explain, give her another hug and then figure out a plan of action with or without the parent’s direct involvement (parent provides guidance and feedback and hugs).

    Kids can sort it out themselves – give them time and space and lots of hugs and understanding.

  5. grace Peirce

    I make this mistake all the time with my son. I’m going to try harder to not offer solutions. Nice video Simone!

    • Kirsten

      Grace – boys often react differently. Girls need to talk and feel heard, boys need to fix the problem. Handing it over to them to fix it is always a great idea, he just needs less of the listening and understanding / empathising.

  6. Abbie Twyford Wilson

    This is a good tool to use even through adulthood. I’ve explained to my husband that I don’t necessarily need or want him to solve my problems for me — I just need him to listen to me vent and give me a hug if I need it. I’m lucky enough that I have a partner who wants to help make it better for me, but respects me enough to let me do things on my own until I specifically ask for help. I’m sure that when we do have kids, this will be the mindset we’ll work from when they have a rough day.

    • Kirsten

      Great that your husband can do that Abbie. It’s the difference in biology between us – men hear about a problem and immediately want to fix it; women, on the other hand, want to talk and feel listened to an understood.

  7. Brenda Marean

    I love the new format! I’m looking forward to seeing all the videos. If they are anything like the first one, they will be extremely helpful to parents and girls (and boys, too!)

    • Dorothy Ponton

      Glad you like it, Brenda! We’re pretty thrilled about it too 🙂

  8. Emily

    I never thought about how I might actually *not* be supporting my daughter by trying to figure it out for her. It’s hard sometimes to watch her struggle but hearing this from Simone makes me feel hopeful about what could happen if I stay out of the problem-solving. I appreciate the extra resources, too!

    • Dorothy Ponton

      Hi Emily,
      Glad to hear the video helped you. Which of the resources did you try, and what kinds of resources would you like more of?


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