Ep 87: Combatting the Drama of High School

Rosalind Wiseman, author of the classic Queenbees and Wannabees (the inspiration for the hit film Mean Girls) and four other books, shares her knowledge from over two decades of working with teens and schools. From what dads-with-daughters have to deal with now to where to draw the line on offensive language between mom-and-son, Rosalind has a wealth of insights!

If you've enjoyed Talking to Teens, we'd love if you could leave us a five-star rating, and if you have time, a review! 

Full show notes

In many ways, high school is something that takes place behind closed doors. Even though teenagers seem young and naïve to many parents, they’re having important life experiences. This encompasses episodes with drugs, alcohol, sex, and other serious inside and outside of class, and their choices have major consequences. Because teens are having their first experiences with more “grown-up” concepts, they won’t be as open to talking to their parents about dealing with teenage

In addition, teenagers are often dealing with a cutthroat social jungle packed with drama! All these stressors add up quickly, and teens might make irrational, dangerous, or harmful decisions. Part of growing up means dealing with teenage drama, something that seems to be ever present in any generation of teens. What happens if they don't learn how to deal with drama? Will this lead my teen to make potentially dangerous decisions? Is there any way we can break this cycle?

This world—the world of high school—is a hard one for parents to keep up with, especially when their teens don’t want to be open and honest about their experiences. Still, parents absolutely need to be a positive presence in their teens lives to help navigate these wild situations. But when teens are reluctant to share their experiences, how can parents possibly know how to act? How can parents help kids dealing with teenage drama?

For more about dealing with teenage drama and what parents can do to help, I talked with Rosalind Wiseman, author of multiple parenting books including Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the new Realities of Girl World, the basis for the hit movie Mean Girls. (You could say Wiseman made “fetch” happen!)

Aside from her filmic success, Wiseman has worked with teens for decades, and her books are all written with the consultation of actual teenagers and are screened by teen readers, making them some of the most spot-on books for teens on the market. She’s also no stranger to working with parents, schools, teachers, and counselors to make dealing with teenage drama, and other challenging moments in teens’ lives, more manageable.

Why Does Teenage Drama Happen?

Conflict is bound to happen, whether you’re a teenage girl, a teenage boy, straight, gay, or questioning. Because of our ever changing and diverse world, no two teens will be exactly alike and not all teens will get along with each other. Perhaps the most fundamental reason why drama arises amongst friend groups is that there is a disconnect in how teens expect to be treated by their friends.

According to Wiseman, one of the most crucial parts of dealing with teenage drama is to instill an understanding of how they should be treated and how they should treat others—something parents need to foster. This episode delves into deeper details Teens need to know their essential worth as a person and use this knowledge to guide their friendships, relationships, and important choices.

Without this, your teen will not know what they’re looking for when it comes to making friends or even dating. This can be a very slippery slope. It could mean getting stuck in a cycle of conflict in a “friend” group that your teen may not truly be friends with. It could even mean that your teen will be exploited or taken advantage of because they don’t have boundaries or a firm value system. When you talk to your kid about dealing with teenage drama, be clear and concise about what they find important. Solidifying what they find important in life can make a powerful, positive impact.

For example, what are they looking for from their friends? Do they cherish trust? Loyalty? Acceptance? Teens need to know what their values are, what they look like, and know how to stand up for themselves when their boundaries are being violated. Teens are going to make these decisions for themselves when socializing with peers, but Wiseman explains exactly why instilling this kind of resolve is one of the best things a parent can do, as well as how to do it. Listen in to find out more!

How Can Parents Address Teenage Drama?

As a parent, you should be available as a point of reference for your teen. Know that for the most part, you shouldn’t be the one stepping in to confront your teen’s friends. Part of the growing up process is dealing with teenage drama on their own.

The best thing you can do is to provide a home environment that demonstrates the best example of a loving and respectful unit. When teens are accustomed to being respected, having their feelings heard, and having their boundaries honored, teens will naturally gravitate towards friend groups with those values in school.

Because dealing with teenage drama is necessary, your teen should know how to approach the situation as best as they can. Of course, no teen is perfect, and there are bound to be moments in which you may catch your teen being unfair, unkind, or even prejudiced.

Rosalind shared an anecdote about dealing with teenage drama where she felt like one of her sons violated a boundary at home. She told me that although she allows coarse language at home, she does not tolerate any degrading language. After her son made a joke that was sexist, Rosalind warned him immediately. She made sure to communicate the fact that that boundary is in place and that violating it any further would result in a more serious punishment.

This is an example of a teaching moment at home that will ideally lead to better interactions with others. When you lovingly (yet firmly) establish a values system based in respect for others, you set the tone for how your teen will interact with others outside your home. In addition, Wiseman covers everything from breaking down cliques to creating what she calls a family “Bill of Rights.” She gives this tip and many more with this week’s episode in dealing with teenage drama.

More Resources for Navigating Teenage Drama

In this week’s expanded episode, I got to experience Rosalind rattling off insights and strategies for parents like the expert she is. There’s so much that we covered that we couldn’t have done it all justice in this summary! In this interview about dealing with teenage drama, we cover:
  • Identifying teenage roles in friend groups.
  • Getting teens to help themselves with self-help books
  • “Reconnaissance strategies” and the importance of teen privacy
  • The reality of nude photos and sexting
  • Shifting elements of teenage drug culture
Teenage drama of today will look different from the drama of parents’ generation. But thanks to experts like Rosalind who updates her work, navigating teenage drama won’t be as much of a headache as it once was. Her work has had an incredible impact on the world of parenting, teaching, and even pop culture, and having her as a guest on this week’s podcast was an absolute privilege. Whether you’re a parent of a high schooler right now, or are preparing your kids for high school in the years to come, listen in for all of Rosalind’s amazing tips on dealing with teenage drama!

Follow us on Social Media! We're @talkingtoteens on Instagram and TikTok

Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Cultures of Dignity
Cultures of Dignity
Rosalind Wiseman and Cultures of Dignity Team work with parents, educators, and young people to navigate the social challenges of adolescence
Ep 87: Combatting the Drama of High School
Broadcast by