• Other Friendship Advice

Friendship: The problem of three

Published: September 4, 2015 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A mom gets upset when three young girls get together and always leave out her daughter.



My daughter is 12½ years old and in the 8th grade. She is an introvert and finds it hard to approach other people, which makes it hard for her to make friends. She does have a few girls she hangs out with periodically, but there are two that she has hung out with the most.

The problem is this…when she hangs out with each one individually, they have a good time together and always beg for more time. When the three are together at school or sleepovers, one of the girls (“C”) dominates the other girl’s (“K”) time and attention, and my daughter is completely left out.

C literally hangs on K and only acknowledges my daughter with a slight nod of the head. I almost had words with C at my daughter’s birthday party because she wouldn’t let my daughter even get close to K. I am at my wit’s end and just don’t know what advice to give my daughter.

Can you help? Thanks.

Signed, Amber


Hi Amber,

Watching your daughter struggle with her friendships must be difficult. I’m so glad you refrained from having words with C because that would probably have made the situation worse, and might have alienated you from your daughter.

Some children (and adults), introverts especially, socialize better one-to-one, while others are comfortable groups. Threesomes are often problematic even for extroverts.

Try to avoid seeing C as “the problem” because K makes her own choices as does your daughter. Eighth-graders are still learning to social skills, assertive expression and how to communicate to resolve conflicts in relationships. If K (or your daughter) is more of a follower than a leader, she might have trouble acting independently, even if she feels uncomfortable.

I always tell kids that they can’t change other people, but they can change how they handle and react to them. In order for your daughter to feel strong and confident, avoid seeing her as a victim and empower her to change her responses to her friends. Your daughter can approach the situation from several angles, some better than others.

1) She can decide to maintain individual friendships with both girls, and shy away from activities as a threesome.

2) She can talk to K and/or C. You can coach her and role-play with her beforehand.

3) She can disengage when she feels like she’s being ignored. A statement like, “I’m going home since you aren’t going to talk to me.” Leaving is a way for your daughter to take back her power and show that she won’t allow herself to be treated poorly. This shouldn’t be made as a threat but as a decision followed by the action of leaving.

4) She can find other friends. The more acquaintances and friends she has, the less she will feel like she has no choice in how she’s treated.

5) She can plan ahead. In group activities, she can prepare herself for the dynamic that K won’t talk to her at a party and strategize who else to talk to at a sleepover.

I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Good luck to your daughter.

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: Child and adolescent friendships

Comments (3)

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  1. Talia says:

    Sadly being the third in a trio is tough, even when you are a grown adult. I had a fairly large circle of friends, two of which were ladies that were especially close to each other. I would often get together with the two of them, but I also had the larger circle of friends to keep things balanced. Over time this circle dwindled, people moved on to relationships and suddenly the only people available were the BFFs. I started spending more time with them, but there was always that feeling of being the third wheel.

    Over the past year I have started to branch out again and meet new people and rebuild my circle of friends. While I remain friendly with these ladies I no longer spend as much time with them. Now when I get together with them I don’t feel as left out when they start talking about things they’ve done together – because I am having my own experiences.

    I think its finding that balance. You don’t have to cut the relationships off, but when the trio is your only social contact then maybe its time to make some new friends.

  2. Christy browm says:

    I think both Amy and Tanja gave you great advice. My daughter was part of a friendship troad in high school that had a similar dynamic. The other 2 girls had known each other longer and made it clear that they were closer to each other than to her. She started spending time with other friends and eventually refused to hang out with the original friends unless it was in a group where she had other people to talk to. Or she’d hang out with each girl individually. My daughter is pretty outgoing but it was still a difficult situation for her for awhile. I agree with Tanja ‘s suggestion that getting your daughter involved in activities might be really helpful. It would keep her busy and hopefully make her feel more independent from her two friends.

  3. tanja says:

    That must be hard to watch your daughter go through this. Too bad you can not just give your daughter a glimse into her future and these people may not even be there at that time. For a 12 yr old, they don’t think that far ahead, they just see what is before them at hand and in the now.

    As I see my kids struggle at times and even myself with long term friends, I know that it will all be different in a year or two. Things change. But, it is hard to tell that to your kids.

    Best advice is to get daughter involved in activities, help her make new friends. Keep having conversations with her on time and change and if someone says something to exclude her, she can walk away, feel hurt in the moment and then let it go. Next time, she has interactions with them she can plan what to do in case of so and so happening, plan scenarios and reactions ahead of time before they happen.

    I have a few highschool friends. I have known them over 20 yrs. Recently, we went on a friendcation together with all our kids and husbands. We rented a cottage. But, you think being our age and with our husbands, things would be different, but it got all high schoolish again. One of our friends took off with another friend and did not invite me and took their young daughters and mine, the only other girl was left out and myself. Granted, it was better that I had my husband there and he is my best friend. My daughter is too young to notice, so I was not to worried on how she felt. I decided to hang with my husband, cook, read. When they returned. That one friend said to her Daughter in front of me, I was the only one there “So are you and (other friends daughter) friends now? Did you like spending time with her?” My daughter is 3, and her daughter is 4 and other friend’s daughter is 2. I walked away and thought what a strange thing to say and in front of me. That comment was designed to take a punch at me. I ignored it and focused on my husband, my sister who was there and other friend kind of caught in middle who may not have been aware that she was in middle. Nothing I could do. We have history so don’t want to ruin this friendship and it helps that we live in different countries, so I really only see her once a year anyway. I can handle once a year. In high school, I just brushed it off as well that is just her.

    The kids had a great time together and that really is what mattered the most to me and which is the main reason why i did this anyway.

    So, All your daughter can do is walk away, plan ahead of time her coarse of action when it does occur and you as a parent can get her involved in new activities, help her to make other friends and give her hobbies she may like, keep her busy for the most part.

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