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Painful teen friendship: What’s a mom to do?

August 11, 2009 | By | 6 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My daughter, Amy, is 16 years old. She is a very sweet girl, a good student, and has a variety of interests like playing the flute, singing in the chorus, writing for the student paper and acting in school plays. She also has a part-time job at our local ice cream shop. She is a bit different than most kids because we live in a small town that is dominated by a certain clannish church (LDS), which we do not belong to, so she is a bit of an outcast. She has about five to ten friends. Her best friend for the past two years has been Heidi, an LDS girl that shares her interests in music and acting.

Last year, Heidi’s divorced parents began hurling accusations at each other over a custody dispute, so the local judge removed her from the home and put her into foster care. She wasn’t allowed unsupervised contact with either parent, not even phone calls. Amy and Heidi were extremely close when Heidi needed someone to help her get through this tough time. (Just as an aside, I’m not a fan of her mother. I think she is domineering and controlling. Also, she could have easily prevented her daughter from being placed in foster care by not allowing her boyfriend in her house and by playing nice with the judge.)

After a year in foster care, Heidi was allowed to live with her mother again. Now that she is back with her mom, she has distanced herself from Amy. Amy is upset and confused, not understanding what she did to deserve this. Heidi wrote Amy an e-mail saying that they have issues: Amy has more money than Heidi (because she has a job) which makes Heidi feel bad, and that Amy tries to make Heidi do immoral things (I asked what she was talking about since both girls are very good and aren’t into drinking, drugs or sex, and Amy said that she had asked her to go to the free concert at the park that the town puts on and a local music festival, both of which are family-oriented events. Apparently the fact that people (adults) drink beer at these events was the problem!)

I don’t know what to tell Amy to do. She doesn’t want to lose her best friend since most of her life she has been without a best friend, but it really angers me that this girl is being so mean to the one person who was there for her through the roughest time in her life. I told Amy to stand up for herself, and not accept blame for things she isn’t guilty of. I also explained that going to church isn’t what makes you a moral person; it is how you treat others that makes you moral.

Do you have any advice that I could pass along to her?

Signed, Helen


ANSWER

Dear Helen,

When children are young, parents often manage their relationships with other kids. As they get older, however, preadolescents and teens want to choose their own friends, sometimes from families that have different values than their own.

One of the tasks of these years is for a young, soon-to-be adult to learn the skills of being a good friend and how to assess whether a friend is being kind, loyal and trustworthy to them. There is a fine line between coaching your child and making decisions for them. While parents need to be open about expressing their own values they have to resist the impulse to jump in and solve problems for their teens unless their child’s health or safety is being threatened.

The best thing you can do is talk to your daughter about friendships, in general, and try to get her to talk openly about her feelings about her best friend. It sounds like you have made a good start. Empathize with her disappointment and reassure her that friendships, even very good ones, change over time. You might point out that Heidi may need time to reconnect and bond with her mother and isn’t able to be the friend she once was to Amy right now.

Explain to Amy that no friendship is perfect. Sometimes problems can be worked out and sometimes they can’t. Remind her that she has other family and friends to fall back upon and the fact that she has made one best friend shows that she is capable of making another. In fact, her relationship with Heidi may improve after her friend feels more comfortable in her new setting.

It is painful for a parent to see their child being hurt by a friend but consider this a teachable moment that will serve Amy well in the future. Remember that your daughter has sound values and that kids are generally more resilient than their parents think they are.

I hope this is helpful.

My best,
Irene

TWITTER VERSION – Unless your teen’s health or safety is at risk, resist the temptation to solve friendship problems for her.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Suzy says:

    This situation is distressing because this person is willing to be your daughter’s friend when no one else is available and because she is a friend who lives close to your home. I applaud your daughter for being sufficiently brave in trying to initiate an introduction into this particular group of friends, as her long-time friendship with a group member made this possible. Obviously, though, this girl does not care to share her friends. The questions becomes whether it is good for your daughter to be the “last person picked” as a friend by this girl. It may be good to have a conversation with your daughter about defining the nature of her relationship with this particular girl so that she can see where she stands and whether she can continue the friendship on some limited level.
    One of the topics that we revisit is that we can’t expect to find a best friend just because they are conveniently located near our home. We would like to think that our neighborhoods will provide some peers that are good friends but there is no guarantee, or the price may be too high (we cut ties when the one peer who visited was continually taking small, high ticket electronics from our home without our knowledge and there were so many siblings in his/her home that there was no opportunity to develop the parental relationship to easily resolve this issue).
    When we found that the girls near our home were not interested in the same things as our daughter, we talked openly about these different interests and worked harder to ensure that she had more avenues to meet other girls. The middle school years were difficult. However, my daughter’s own interests evolved and led her to a group of girls with similar interests. She may not see them as often as she wants to but she has a lot of fun through e-mails and other get-togethers. Actually, there are now school friends and then the topic of interest friends, so she has a lot of girls in which to relate.
    As mothers, we can see how kind, devoted, and interesting our daughters can be but we fight for wholesome relationships against so much media bombardment and so little support for their social development at public schools. With some observations by you and some investment in her interests your daughter will find her new best friend.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi I have a lovely well mannered daughter who is 15 turning 16 in August. She is not interested in face book . She has a great group of friends at school who always promise to stay in touch over holidays but never do. They all go out shopping or to the movies and never remember to invite her. She is feeling so left out and very sad. She is starting to question if she is a good friend? why do they exclude her. She is not confronting and will not ask why they excluded her, she just take it all in but I know it is hurting her. Please advise.

    • Suzy says:

      RE: Friends that don’t stay in touch.
      We found that this age group can keep busy and meet new people by donating time during school breaks to organizations that need teens for elementary age day school programs. Our child has made new friends who also stay in touch during the rest of the year. As is the case for adults, young people can access different community outlets to enrich their lives with community service and with new, interesting people. Then, the occasional visits with school friends are a welcome respite from other commitments.

  3. Irene says:

    My heart goes out to you as a mother. You must feel the hurt as deeply as your daughter—But I think the most important role you can play in this situation is as a confidante and mentor to your daughter.
    Encourage her to tell you what happened, maybe even more than once. Validate her feelings and explain how you understand how it made her feel. Explain how adolescent friendships can be fickle.
    Help her figure out the best way to handle it and explain that when friends disappoint us like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are at fault, or that the friendship can’t be resurrected.
    Follow her lead in resolving this problem rather than solving it for her.
    Hope this helps,
    Irene

     

    P.S. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS KEY. IT MAKES IT HARD TO READ:-) 

  4. Anonymous says:

    MY 13 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER HAS 2 CLOSE FRIENDS, NEITHER FRIEND IS FRIENDS WITH THE OTHER. EACH FRIEND HAS THEIR OWN SET OF FRIENDS AND NEVER ASKS MY DAUGHTER TO JOIN THEM. MY DAUGHTER FINALLY ASKED HER LONG TIME FRIEND IF SHE COULD JOIN HER WITH THE 2 OTHER KIDS AFTER SCHOOL TODAY. SHE SAID YES EARLIER THIS WEEK AND THEN AT THE LAST MINUTE TOLD MY DAUGHTER THAT THE 3 OF THEM WERE DOING SOMETHING ONLY THEY KNEW ABOUT( HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT?) AND SAID THEY COULD NOT HANG OUT WITH HER. THE SO CALLED FRIEND GOT OFF THE BUS WITH MY DAUGHTER AND WALKED TO HER HOUSE WITH THESE 2 GIRLS LEAVING MY DAUGHTET ALONE. I WAS LIVID. I ADORE THE GIRLS MOM AND KNOW SHE WOULD BE DEVASTATED TO LEARN WHAT HER DAUGHTER DID. MYHUSBAND SAYS STAY OUT OF IT AND LET MY DAUGHTER CONFRONT HER FRIEND. HELP, MY HEART IS BREAKING FOR HER..

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