Mom worried about work friendship endangering her child’s emotional well-being

Published: November 19, 2011 | Last Updated: November 19, 2011 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

I work for a business that represents
some former friends. They have a nine-year-old daughter who was a BFF with our
nine-year-old daughter. Over the summer, the friends offered to care for our
daughter one day a week while I was at work. It all started out almost too
well, with tons of energy and generosity.


Things got very awkward mid-summer and
the mom started to drop my daughter off early at my work. My daughter now
tells me that their daughter threatened and bullied her several times. Needless
to say, our friendship has trailed off.


I’m angry about the recklessness of
their daughter and the strange behavior of the mother, but need to maintain a
"happy" relationship with them through work. How do I react (not
freak out!) when I see them, and what are appropriate things to say to our
daughter about why we are not friends but still have to act professionally at work and when we bump into them?  


I’m concerned for my daughter’s safety
and happiness and never want the girls to be together again.

Signed, Worried Mom



Dear Worried Mom,

Your email didn’t provide details about
exactly what happened but whatever it was, it’s clear that it was serious
enough from your point of view that you don’t want your daughter to have
further contact with your former friends’ daughter. Given this decision and the
circumstances, I think it’s smart to limit your relationship with this family
to a professional one in the future.


If the friendship has already trailed
off on its own, let it die a natural death. If you remember why you are doing
this –and that your daughter’s safety and emotional well-being are your
primary concern – you should get over the anger in time. Perhaps, you are also
upset because you didn’t have an inkling it was going on until your daughter
told you.


I wonder though, whether you might have
any interest in hearing an explanation from the mother’s point of view about
exactly what transpired between the two girls. If you could handle such a
dialogue in a gracious way and make the conversation about the girls rather
than their parents, this might help you better understand your daughter and the
other child’s behavior. If you think the subject is too volatile to discuss, I
would simply let it go.


To keep things as comfortable as
possible at work, you might want to thank your former friend for offering to
babysit and let her know that you’re sorry it didn’t work out better.


In terms of your daughter, my
suggestion would be to speak openly with her. You need to reaffirm that:

  • Bullying and threatening behavior aren’t
  • She
    should let you know if this ever happens again in the future with any other
    friend so you can help her handle it (if she can’t squelch it on her own).
  • Although you need to maintain a good
    professional relationship and act conciliatory with the other family in the
    workplace, it has created distance between you as friends. Moreover, you do not
    want your daughter to be subjected to a child who bullies her.

Hope this helps in this uncomfortable

My best, Irene


Other posts on The Friendship Blog about workplace friendships:




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Comments (3)

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  1. Irene says:

    You are a very concerned and caring mother—I’m glad if I could help just a little bit. 🙂 Best, Irene

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Irene,

    Thank you for the great response. It sounds like we are doing and have done a lot of what you have recommended. Before I learned of the threatening behavior, I had actually invited our former friends to dinner to thank them for their generosity. Once the invite had been made, my daughter told me about the incidents! (This was several weeks ago.) I was very relieved when they declined, but have kept things very positive.

    The event that worries us most is that our daughter was in a sailing class with their daughter. On the last day, the two of them were in a very small sailboat together. According to our daughter, her friend yelled over and over again that if she didn’t do what she said, she would capsize the boat. Capsizing is a taught skill in sailing, but as we just found out, our daughter is terrified of it. I had no idea her level of fear. I was just sick about it when she told me, because my husband and I were on the dock watching with our telephoto lens that day and just saw her bailing and bailing water. They were far enough away that we couldn’t hear them. We sort of chuckled at the time because it seemed like a comedy of events taking place. I felt so awful and outraged when she recently told me what actually happened.

    Our daughter seems to have gotten over this since it happened in August. And when I talk to her, she agrees wholeheartedly that none of her other friends would ever, ever act like this girl did. We also practiced what to say in the future, and I offered her the chance to say to me what she would have said to her former friend if she had had the chance.

    I would love to get an explanation from the mother on what all happened between the girls, but my husband wisely suggested that we’ll never get the truth. In hindsight, there are a lot of things very wrong with the picture. I wrote her several “letters” in my journal and it helped a bit. I can always mail them to the wood stove!

    I’m just glad we’re out of this for now. Distance is making it easier, and your advice will help me in the future.

    Thank you again,

    Worried Mom

  3. Anonymous says:

    Would it be possible to invite your co-worker friend’s child to your house? See first hand how the girls interact and give immediate input to both kids when you witness either child displaying inappropriate behavior towards one another. See if that changes their pattern of interaction? If it doesn’t change anything, then I think Irene gave you some good tips.

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