Sharon Neiss Arbess, author of Me & My So-Called Friends featured at the Girls Expo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Social pressures and bullying are two of the biggest challenges that face teens today. Today’s parents and teachers grew up without smartphones and social media, so it can be hard to imagine the challenges that teens have when their entire lives are displayed for all of their “so-called friends” to see. What can we do to help our children?

Sharon Neiss-Arbess has written Me and My So-Called Friends, a young adult fiction novel, and has produced Brave the Waves: A Program for Building Resiliency, an accompanying teacher’s manual.

Together, the novel and its accompanying teacher’s manual help teens and adults see what can happen during a turbulent year at school and come up with strategies for dealing with it. Me and My So-Called Friends is a relatable and funny story, but it is also full of tools and lessons to help young people as they navigate a social atmosphere that presents unique pressures in a world of growing interconnectedness. Brave The Waves: A Program for Building Resiliency contains ten full lessons designed specifically for teachers, social workers, and camp staff to help their students realize that they are never alone, and can make it through tough times.

Brave the Waves: A Program for Building Resiliency was written with regard to the Government of Ontario’s Open Minds, Healthy Minds initiative (2011), and is therefore focused on creating healthy and resilient children. Neiss-Arbess’ novel is written for children in Grades 6 through 8. It focuses on Lizzie Stein, a girl facing a serious social and emotional challenge. She has to start Grade 9 without any of the relationships she had relied on from the year before. When Lizzie gets home from summer camp, she talks with her three best friends and realizes something is not right. Her friends are somehow different, maybe not even her friends at all.

Lizzie’s loss of a connection with her friends is just the beginning. The challenges that follow test her in ways that show her inner strength. This is a beautiful way of showing readers that they can make it through difficult times. The resources found in both the novel and the accompanying teacher’s manual will help readers build lasting resilience.

Every child deals with bullies, and the teenage years are full of isolating transitions. Outcomes are better for students when they have strategies to deal with the stress brought on by modern teenage life. Sharon Neiss-Arbess has created many worthwhile and meaningful resources for teachers and students to deal with these issues. Brave the Waves and Me and My So-Called Friends are excellent tools for educators who want to ensure that their students are able to tackle the challenges of teenhood. When a big embarrassment turns into an even bigger rumour online, they will be able to look at it with context and understand that they have the strength to get through it.