Sometimes, middle school is where self-esteem goes to die.

If you have preteens or teenagers, you already know there are times that you feel like you’re dealing with aliens. But there are also times when you know too well the issues they face, and they won’t listen to you or let you help. While those are both a normal part of development, knowing that doesn’t make parenting any easier when you see your children struggle to handle complex issues like relationships. Let’s face it – you’ve been around enough of life’s street corners to know what they might run into, while kids often bound around metaphorical corners oblivious to possible consequences.

On the issue of drama between friends, Annie Fox, M.Ed., has tried to provide your girls with a map.

Fox has credentials with both kids and parents. She’s the author of Middle School Confidential and Teaching Kids to Be Good People, and she hosts a weekly parenting podcast, “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting.” And in The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the Drama, she’s created an easy-to-use guide which gives girls a resource when they can’t, or won’t, talk to their parents.

The format is simple: each of the 50 questions is answered in one page, which lends itself to generalized advice that won’t apply to every girl who reads it. But even when the advice won’t apply to a specific person or situation, it offers a place to start exploring options. Maybe that’s the biggest plus of the book: in a world of impulsive decisions governed by emotional reactions, the book gives its readers a reason to pause, take a deep breath, and think about a response.

My favorite parts of the book, though, are the quotes from older girls who’ve been through similar situations. That gives the book credibility with an audience of readers that often would rather run headfirst into a wall than ask adults for advice. The book is laid out nicely as well, and the illustrations by Erica De Chavez add to the enjoyment and flow of the book.

All in all, as long as readers understand that the suggestions won’t always apply to their unique situations, the book is a useful guide to help guide girls around life’s street corners with as much confidence as possible. The book is targeted for 8-to-12-year-olds so that girls are ready for the friend drama of middle school, but older girls would probably find the book useful, too.

One last thing for the girls out there: just because it’s normal to want to hide problems from your parents doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Believe it or not, those old coots might just have gone through the same thing “back in the day” (you know, before they invented the wheel and the Internet).

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, specializes in family therapy at Grody Family Counseling in Worthington, Ohio. Carl is a trained group leader in the Incredible Years parenting program, and he’s the family therapy columnist for Columbus Parent magazine. For an appointment with Carl, call 614-477-5565.)

(If you’d like to order Annie’s book, you can get it here: