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Helping Teens Resolve Friendship Problems

Published: November 29, 2014 | Last Updated: August 3, 2021 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
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It’s natural that moms want to help teens resolve friendship problems but that isn’t always the best approach.

QUESTION

My 15-year-old daughter has been in a friendship with one of her friends for two years. They were inseparable. Now a third girl has been added to the group and all was going well but for the past couple months it seems as if they are not including my daughter.

The newbie is trying to cause problems between my daughter and her best friend! When my daughter says anything, the other two tell her she’s being immature and to just drop it. But she isn’t the one who has started the drama!

I am friendly with the moms and want to say something because it seems my daughter is always the odd man out and is very upset most of the time.

Any advice would help.

Signed, Concerned Mom

ANSWER

Hi Concerned Mom,

Sorry to hear that your daughter is having difficulty with her friends. Sitting on the sidelines when kids are in pain and having friendship problems can feel counterintuitive. Yet at age fifteen, unless your daughter is being bullied, intervening would probably damage the relationship more than help.

Friendships, even best friends, often change or end for a number of reasons including maturation at different rates, growth in different directions, dating, new friends, disagreements, cliques, after-school sports or clubs, interests and other reasons. As your daughter navigates the bumpy road of adolescent relationships, she is also learning communication and conflict resolution skills she can only learn through practice. You can help her by talking to her and role-playing, although as you know, relationships feel different in theory and practice.

A lot of teens think their situations are unique or that others can’t understand. Bibliotherapy can be an effective way to show kids they aren’t alone. Harmless by Dana Reinhardt is about what happens when a new girl makes their duo into a trio.

You might also talk to her about why she thinks she’s the odd person out. Try to direct her away from thinking it’s “the new girl’s fault” since she can’t change that this person exists. Ask her if she thinks she can do something different to change her part of the equation.

Encourage her to branch out with different peers who share her interests. Clubs and sports, particularly team sports, are avenues for making new friends. If she can widen her social circle, perhaps less pressure will be placed on the current dilemma she is experiencing.

If your daughter suggests a sleepover with both girls, that’s an activity that wouldn’t make her feel left out. I know she’d rather spend time one-on-one with her best friend, but inviting one without the other is the same thing that upsets her when she’s left out. She also doesn’t want to be perceived by one or both as a drama queen or as someone trying to come between them, which could cause both of them to turn on her.

Mentioning the changing dynamics of the friendship with the mothers could backfire. Her friends might become angry and your daughter may perceive you as having made matters worse. She may be accused of starting drama or your intervention could be seen as “proof” of her immaturity in her friends’ eyes.

I hope your daughter and her friends can resolve the distance between them.

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 (4)

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  1. Chris says:

    Great post!
    We have had this happen in our house. My daughter is 15 and had this friend since forever and she was the friend who knew the third girl first and they were also good friends. My daughter who has never done well in groups especially not groups of 3. When they were all younger 3 was ok , no drama they always got along well. Then 3 rd girls parents find out how well to do said family is and soon their not only daughter but their younger child as well is continually at said house and naturally they become a lot closer because of the ant of time they are together. My daughter is just hurt and cannot understand how you can go from all being close to soon being the third wheel. She finally got to point where it was only during xmas or birthdays that they all 3 got together. This year she only wants to do xmas with one of them aaaargh! I said they are her friends do what you will. The other two friends families get together and exchange gifts and make sure to post tons of pics always so that my daughter sees how much they are together. It’s really painful!
    One night my daughter told me to watch that she would show me what happens on a typical sleepover night where there is 3. Mind you this is at our house. Dinner goes great but you can see the pull of who gets to sit by who, who gets my husbands attention(not by my daughter) scary movie time. My daughter scared to death of them, the other two it’s their fav thing to do. They come upstairs b4 movie mine says I’m sitting in middle, one says no your not, the other says don’t be a baby,mine says you know I get scared as they are walking off I hear the stronger of the two say let’s not let her in the middle. So about five minutes go by I hear a few screams. My daughter is trying to sit close to the other two and they will not let her.
    Me being me, I’ve known th for forever they are like my kids. I come down mine is sitting in chair alone and they have the whole couch and are bunched together. I go over like I’m gonna watch, grab some popcorn say move over and plop down in the middle of them. After a couple minutes of terrifying scary scenes I call my kid over and nudge the more stronger personality over until my kid and the other are hugging each other as they scream. Then I get up and the other is at the end fuming instead of just bunching up with the other two. It’s craazy. 3 is not a good number unless you are a strong personality and my kid is not.

  2. tanja says:

    That can suck from the perspective of a teenager. Intervening is not the answer. It does make things worse. Trust, I had a mom who did it and it was not about me, it was about her and her childhood demons. Everyone has them and it is heartbreaking as a parent to watch their kids going through these social issues. As a mom, what you can do is keep communication open. Talk to her about finding other peers, let her know your experiences. For example, I can tell you from my experience, that friendships change over time. Eventually, you will leave high school, maybe go to uni and make other friends, then maybe marry, have kids, have a career. One thing is for sure, some friends will stay and some will go. Life is too short to waste it with people that are not deserving of your time. Tell her not to close people off, but putting her head in a book is a good idea, doing art, having an outlet, an individual activity or hobby will keep her preoccupied and give her a positive way to express herself. Not notice the others so much. If she acts busy or like it doesn’t matter, they will come to her. I wish I had a mother to really talk to me like that when I was a kid. But, I was alone. It mattered more to my mom than it did to me if I was popular or not.

  3. Mrs. Chen says:

    Hi Concerned mom,
    If you truly feel that your daughter is the victim and the “newbie” is the one causing all the drama, then you should definitely not talk to those moms. They won’t take to your complaints nicely and you’ll end up making things worse for your daughter.

    I know it’s hard not to automatically take your own daughter’s side, but I always try to remember that I don’t know anything besides what my daughter told me. And even if she told me everything, it’s still just from her own point of view.

    One thing I always remind my own daughters (14-yo and 11-yo) is that friends are not “things”, therefore friends are NOT “steal-able”. Her friend is a person who makes her own decisions. If she decides to spend time with the “newbie”, that is her decision. Your daughter may be unhappy with her friend’s decision, but she needs to respect that decision. It takes two to tango — one sided friendships never work.

    Also, no matter how fabulous, these two girls are not the only kids worthy of your daughter’s time. I have no doubt that there are plenty of other girls who would be thrilled to be in your daughter’s company. So consider advising your daughter to move on.

    • Amy F says:

      Great response. Your daughters are lucky to have a mom you realizes there are usually multiple POVs, often contrary. I especially like the “people aren’t stealable” comment. A BIG pet peeve of mine.

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