My 11-year-old daughter and my best friend’s daughter have been friends since kindergarten. The problem is, her daughter is now in a group of girls who are being very unpleasant to my daughter. They exclude her from the group and I also found that some of them have been sending nasty texts to her. What should I do?

While tackling this situation with your friend might feel daunting, your daughter’s well-being must be your priority.

It’s not uncommon for girls of this age to be subjected to all sorts of unpleasant tactics designed to allow others to succeed in dominating. The psychology of ‘girl groups’ is that one or two of the dominant members can vie for power and the fallout of this can mean exclusion, name-calling and, increasingly, cyberbullying.

It can feel constantly precarious and it’s brutal and very upsetting. It can also have an impact on school work, so it’s vital to give your daughter the tools to be able to deal with it.

Perhaps your friend’s daughter has been or will be subjected to a similar experience at some point and talking about the way girls deal with this transitional period in their lives has got to be a positive thing. I think you need to raise your concerns with her, not in an accusatory way, but focusing more on what ‘the group’ is doing to your daughter, thus implying that her daughter is part of what is going on. Being a good friend, she will most likely sympathise with you and try to help by asking her own child about the situation. If she does not, then you might have to put some distance between you, so that you can send a message of solidarity to your daughter.

Girls bullying can often go unnoticed. It tends not to lead to violence, but is rather more secretive and emotionally damaging, so sometimes teachers can be unaware of the complex power struggles that are going on. I think it’s wise that you approach the school to make sure they are fully aware of the situation. It’s also important that you keep talking to your daughter about what is going on. Staying informed is vital as is staying on top of her text interactions. If you are going to allow your child to have a phone, then you need to make sure you have clear guidelines about how it’s used and reasonable access to it. It is the only way to be certain of what is going on.

Talk to your daughter about the importance of you being able to support her and guide her. At 11 she is not fully equipped emotionally to navigate the complexity of the situation. Teaching her to understand when she is being bullied is a good first step. Sometimes to stay part of the group, girls will just put up with awful behaviour from others. Exclusion, threatening not to be friends, spreading rumours, closing ranks, saying mean things and then pretending it was just a joke – these manipulative practices need to be dealt with.

Acknowledge that it’s OK to be angry about the situation, but that to improve the situation she should focus on developing tactics that will help her to form that emotionally strong armour, such as identifying who the nice girls are and creating a new group that is more stable.