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Connecting with a friend who is ashamed

Published: September 25, 2014 | By | Reply Continue Reading
A teen questions how to communicate with someone ashamed about failing at school.



I recently turned 15. I have a question about a kind of weird friendship I have a friend whom I have known since I was 9-years-old. We are somewhat close.

I am an honor student and he is a failing student. He also got expelled from school for being involved in gang-related stuff. I don’t see him in school, but see him everyday after school because he waits just off campus for his friends.

We talked on the first day of school but not really since. We were once really close and we both want to talk to each other but don’t know how.

I know he knows I’m disappointed in him and I know he wants to do well in school. But right mow we are surrounded by this awkward silence that we are both scared to break.

We know everything about each other and I don’t want to lose that. How should I even approach him? I know he’s gonna feel bad and not want to talk to me. What should I do?

Signed, Becca


Hi Becca,

Thanks for writing. I wasn’t able to tell from your letter whether you wanted to talk to your friend as you always have, or whether you are interested in him in romantically, so I’ll respond in a way that applies to both.

Finding a way to let go of your disappointment in him is a good first step. Friends are usually more open and conversational when they feel accepted and not judged. If you keep to your feelings about you rather than him, that’s a good way to be nonjudgmental (for example, saying, “I feel disappointed I don’t get to see you in school every day” versus “I’m disappointed in you.”) Assuming he already feels bad/guilty/embarrassed about being kicked out of school, the first sentence is kinder and shows him that you care.

The longer you avoid talking to him, the more uncomfortable you’ll probably feel. He might feel intimidated by your grades and intelligence, maybe thinking he’s not good enough to be your friend (or more). Somebody has to talk first, and since you wrote to the blog, I bet you’re able to take that step.

When I read that he was expelled for gang-related activity, I felt worried for you. Even if he would never hurt you, his friends and enemies might not care. You can easily get caught in a situation that is overwhelming and dangerous. You could be targeted or caught in the crossfire, literally and metaphorically.

If you’re interested in dating him, the potential fallout is probably greater. You deserve to date someone who treats you with respect, and won’t expose you to avoidable risk. If you’re interested in a platonic friendship, you be safer one-on-one with him instead of with his friends. You can also communicate electronically. Lots of young people (and some adults, too) think “It will never happen to me” about danger, illness, boyfriend/spouse abuse and other negative situations. Some take risks they wouldn’t take if they realized it could happen.

Lots of girls and women think they can “save” or “fix” wounded partners with love or by giving them advice. Friends and family can be supportive, but people have to learn to save themselves. Your first responsibility is taking care of yourself, not just in this situation, but always. You are important. When you take care of yourself, you serve as a good role model for how those around you should take care of themselves. Your actions will almost always speak louder than any words you say.

Good luck.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Teen friendships

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