• Resolving Problems

Family friendships: When a spat between families spills over to the kids

Published: July 24, 2014 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
When family friendships break up, children’s friendships can often be a casualty.


Hi Irene,

My best friend of almost seven years and I cannot see eye-to-eye. Her family has had a falling out with another mutual friend and it is causing a lot of unwanted/unnecessary tension.

If the other family’s children are at my home she will not allow her children to come over even though the children aren’t the problem. If this is the case, why punish your children and not allow them to see their friends?

I feel like I am supposed to un-friend the other family because they don’t get along and I refuse to do that. I can’t get her to see how she is affecting everyone, and all of the children especially. Any suggestions?

Signed, Melissa


Hi Melissa,

How uncomfortable it must be to be in the middle of this morass. Unfortunately, if you have already spoken to your friend several times, there is nothing you can do to make her resolve this falling out with the other family. You might want to let some time pass before you raise the issue again.

My advice would be to remain friends with both families but given the bad blood between them, to try to spend your time with each separately.

In terms of the children, it’s unfortunate this dispute has spilled over to them. This is also out of your control. I don’t know how old your kid (s) are but if they are old enough, you probably need to tell them the truth. Explain that sometimes adults have disagreements, family friendships are affected, and that’s what happened to in this case and that’s why the children can’t all play together. Being clear, upfront and matter-of-fact will help lessen the tension and confusion among the kids.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (3)

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  1. Olivia says:

    Hi Melissa –
    In this situation, I think a lot hinges upon exactly what happened between the two moms who had the falling-out. If the breakup between the moms was about deal breaker behaviors, I can sympathize with the mom who doesn’t want her kids playing with the other kids, even at someone else’s house.

    Some examples of deal breaker behaviors:
    -Major differences in values/ethics. For example, one mom lets her kids punch, hurt or bully the other mom’s kids and doesn’t try to change the behavior because “kids will be kids.” I’ve ended friendships and turned down group play date invites with a former friend’s kid who allowed her son to continue hurting my child.

    -If one mom tries to put the other mom’s kids in the middle of the fight, or has acted in manipulative and unsafe ways toward the other mom’s kids. For example, trying to use the kids as go-betweens in a fight between the parents, trying to get the kids to pass along messages to the other mom, or promising the other mom’s kids that “if your mom stops being angry with me, you can have an ice cream sleepover, why don’t you ask your mom?” Again, this has happened to me, and I no longer allow my kids to attend play dates with those kids.

    -If the kids of one mom start badmouthing the other kids’ mother when they get together, or are coached to pump them for information. Not cool.

    There are other deal breaker behaviors, but without knowing what happened between the two moms, I would suggest that you respect the first mom’s wishes and keep the playdates separate at this point. Refusing to let the kids hang out is pretty extreme, it seems like something really bad must’ve happened between the parents. If the other mom is a friend you value, I’d respect her decision.

  2. Mrs. Chen says:

    Maybe it’s not that your friend refuses to see how she is affecting everyone else. Maybe the fact that her kids no longer play with the kids of the other friend is precisely what she wanted. Maybe she objects to some parenting practices of your other friend. Or maybe she doesn’t like one of the kids. Maybe the fight was about the children. If so, she is not going to change her ways in order to make you feel better because she thinks she is doing the right thing by her children.

    In any case, you should stay out of her business. She is an adult and can decide for herself who she wants as a friend. You are, of course, free to stay friends with the other mom. But you need to respect your friend’s decision and stop trying to talk her into reconciling with the other mom or to let her children play with the other kids. You need to accept that the period of “family threesomes” are sadly over. Or else, I fear that your friend will end up dropping you as well.

  3. Amy F says:

    I like Irene’s advice.

    I wondered if the other mother cares whether her kids play with your friend’s? Just curious see whether she showing more maturity.
    My concern with the situation is does your friend have a history of this type behavior with others. If she does, I’d be concerned what would happen in the future you had a disagreement. In my experience, people usually repeat patterns throughout their relationships. I have a relative like that who I learned to keep at an emotional distance because she gets mad over phantom things. I fully expect her to never want to see me again in the future. Not sure if this is the same case with your friend, because her concern about the kids socializing seems extreme.

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