Pair up for a Group Date!

You can tell he likes you, and you like him. But the whole dating experience is just too weird and awkward. So gather up a group of your friends -- girls and guys! -- for a group date and invite your crush along. This is a great way to shake a case of the nerves while still getting to know your best boy a little better.

Group Date Tip No 1: Pick a place.
First off, figure out where you and your friends can go to interact and have a good time. Think of it as a field trip but without the chaperones. A flick is not the best pick since you won’t be able to chat it up inside a movie theater. Instead, consider some of these great group date ideas:

  • Swimming either at a pool or nearby lake
  • Miniature golf or even the local gaming place
  • Pizza place or other inexpensive sit-down restaurant
  • Carnival if there’s one in town
  • Cookout in somebody’s backyard
  • Free concert or outdoor festival (check local papers)
  • Picnic lunch at a park -- pack a cooler!

Group Date Tip No. 2: Don’t call it a “date.”
OK, so you and your BFF have decided to go ahead and plan this group date outing, but if you don’t want to scare the boys away, avoid using the word “date,” which is a little anxiety-charged. It’s a lot less pressure (and probably won’t freak your parents out as much either) if you just say, “Hey, a bunch of us are getting together this weekend. It’ll be so much fun!”

Group Date Tip No. 3: Ditch the shyness.

Even if you normally clam up around boys, this is your shot at showing your crush the real you. The whole point of a group date is to be able to relax and do away with “date expectations.” Put on your most confident smile and kick up a conversation with that cutie. Talk to him just like you would chat it up with one of your girls.

Group Date Tip No. 4: Keep it safe.

Let your parents in on where you’ll be and make sure all your friends agree to stay together as a group. Establish a meeting time and place in case anyone gets separated, and exchange cell phone numbers before you head out. Heh … now he has your number!

Triple Threat of Toxic Friends

Look, all friendships have ups and downs. But if a bud’s behavior routinely pulls you down or cramps your style, you could be dealing with a toxic friend. Here, we take a look at three types of toxic friends … and dole out advice for detoxing from a pal’s poison darts.

1. Buds That Belittle
Do you have a gal pal who picks you to pieces? No matter what, she constantly cuts you down to size. Here’s the thing: Girls who repeatedly put people down have such low self-esteem that they feel empowered by finding fault in others -- even their friends.

Toxic friend detox tactic:
Simply understanding that your belittling bud actually feels inferior can take the edge off her cutting remarks. A little bit of killer kindness can go a long way in softening the verbal blows. The next time she says, “OMG, where’d you get that tacky skirt?” just laugh it off with “Oh, at the Tacky Skirt Shack!”

2. Drama Queens

There’s a drama queen in every circle, but some take it to a toxic level. Perhaps your friend has a knack for turning little tiffs into full-on blowouts. This girl gets a rush when stuff is in crisis mode, so she might even create a conflict when the vibe is too serene and pristine. Can you say “meltdown”?

Toxic friend detox tactic:
How to avoid the fallout of an over-the-top drama queen’s grand performance? Don’t be her tragic co-star or give her an audience. When she acts all dramatic, walk away and let her know you’ll talk to her when she’s chill. Think of it as friendship intermission.

3. The Ultimate User

This toxic friend only chats it up with you when she wants to “borrow” your weekly allowance or history homework. Or maybe she just buddies up with you because she has a big crush on your older brother. Whatever her deal, this friendship is one-sided.

Toxic friend detox tactic:
Learn to say “no way” to this gal. If she snubs you when you don’t give her what she wants, she’s not a true-blue pal. So ice her out and consider it her loss, not yours. Yep, she’s a loser: She loses you!

Show Mom You Love Her!

Sure, you and your mother -- or aunt or grandma or stepmom -- might not always look at things from the same angle. Put your differences aside for a while and do a few simple things to let Mom know she’s an awesome parent!

1. Tell her a secret.
“My mom is always asking questions like a detective,” says GWD reader Laura, 13. “‘Who did you sit with at lunch?’ ‘Who are you talking to online?’ I feel like she doesn’t trust me anymore!”

It’s not about trust. She’s interested because she loves you. So give her some gab: You’re in control of what you wanna spill. But the more you share, the less she’ll pry.

2. Spin some cool tunes.
Turn your mother on to a new band or musician you love. Teach her a dance step (as long as she pinkie-swears she won’t do it in public!). Then, have your mom introduce you to some of her favorite songs from her teen years. Music is a great way to connect and find out more about a person.

3. Ask embarrassing questions.
Talking to your mom about female stuff can feel a little awkward, but your mom is such a good resource. Whether you’re having problems with your menstrual cycle or are completely confused about cramps, just keep it casual. Take a straight-up approach and start by saying something like, “Mom, how old were you when you got your period?” She’ll be glad you asked.

4. Make some artwork.
Take any piece of artwork you’ve done -- photograph, poem, painting -- and put it in a frame. (You can pick up an inexpensive frame at discount stores.) Moms love handcrafted presents from their kids -- no matter how old you are!

5. Give her a journal.
Buy a blank diary, and on the first page, write a message of gratitude for something your mom has instilled in you through the years: “Thank you for teaching me the value of hard work” or “Thanks for always believing in me.” Every time she opens the book, she’ll be reminded of how much she’s loved and appreciated.

6. Hang out with her.
Make some plans with your mom. Check your local paper for free activities, such as community sporting events or outdoor music festivals. Or have a mother-daughter slumber party: Give each other manicures, pedicures and facials. Fun!

The Beginner’s Guide to Dating Boys

Need a little help on how to, un-complicate “The Date”? Even if you don’t feel quite ready yet for your first date … you can tuck this stuff away for later.

“I’ve had lots of crushes but never a boyfriend. Is that normal?”
Maybe you’re still a little uncomfortable with the idea of going out with a boy, perhaps your parents won’t allow it, or it just so happens you haven’t been asked out on a date yet. Whatever the deal, there’s no “normal” age to start dating. If you think everybody is doing it, not so! It’s far better to wait until you and your parents have full confidence that it’s the right time. For now, you could hang out with boys and girls in groups. Why rush it?

“My crush asked me to the school dance, and my parents said I can go! What should I expect from my first date?”
You’ll probably have a much more pleasant date if you don’t have any expectations other than to be treated with respect. Once you’re out, just chat him up like you would a bud. This is simply a chance to get to know each other a little better. Sure, he’s cute and all -- but maybe you’ll figure out you two are better off keeping it in the friend zone. Or you could find you’re ready for an official boyfriend. Either way, dating isn’t nearly as nerve-racking as final exams so just relax and have fun.

“Shouldn’t I pretend to be into the same stuff he’s into so he’ll really like me?”
No! Don’t fake it. If you really are into what he likes, then sure, say so. Otherwise, it’s totally OK to have different interests, so be who you are. That said, it’s also fine to learn more about what gets him stoked if you have a genuine desire to do so. (e.g., “No, I’ve never played that video game, but maybe you could teach me!”) And never sell yourself short. Go right ahead and take his character down if it turns out you’re a natural at virtual martial arts. If a guy is intimidated by your strengths, that’s too bad for him.

The Breakup How-to Guide

You had a major crush on him for months before he finally asked you out. You became inseparable, and you couldn't have imagined yourself without him.

Now? Something has changed, and you can't imagine your life with him. Hard as it is to believe, you want out of the relationship you worked so hard to get into. So how exactly do you go about breaking up with a BF diplomatically? Here’s our step-by-step guide:

1. Make sure you’re sure.
There’s no guarantee he’ll take you back if you change your mind about this, so you’d better be darn certain this is what you want before you go breaking it off. Is there something in particular that makes you unhappy in the relationship? Some problems can be worked out, like if you want to spend more time with your friends. Other problems, such as his insane jealousy, aren’t so easily solved. Once you figure out what’s wrong, decide if you want to fix it or end it.

2. Be a girl with a plan.
If you definitely want to go through with it, you’re going to have to break the news to your boyfriend. So plan out when and how you're going to tell him. If you're super-peeved at him (say, you heard he made out with your friend), it's best to sit on it for a few days until you’re calm.

3. Give him face time.
Although you could tell him over the phone or by email, talking to him in person is kinder and more respectful. Meet in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Do not break up with him at a party or in a crowded restaurant. Being part of a humiliating scene only looks cool on TV.

4. Spit out the truth.
Be honest and direct. Make it clear that you want to end it. Don't give mixed messages that keep him holding out hope. There's no need to explain yourself or place blame. Remember, this is someone you cared about once, and even if you think he's a jerk right now, he still has feelings. All you need to relay to him is, “This isn’t working for me, and I’m moving on.” Then do just that -- move on.