• Other Friendship Advice

The relationship between children’s friendships and those of their parents

Published: March 1, 2013 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
Children’s friendships can help foster relationships among parents but can also lead to their endings.


Hi there,

I have a 13-year-old boy who has been going to the same school since kindergarten. The parent community has become very close throughout the years. We get together, go for dinner, kids outings, etc. It all has been great. However, for the last couple of years my son seems to be out of the ‘loop’ with all the kids.

One of my closest friends for years has been claiming that her son, “D” and my son, C are “best friends.” I know that my son “C” has always had “D” close to his heart and considers him his bestie. But “D” treats my son very badly at school in front of peers.

For the last couple of years, he had excluded him in recess play and when my son is playing with other kids, “D” would join in and then pull the kids away after a couple of minutes and leave him behind. “C” is constantly putting the relationship first and “D” not. There are many, many other examples that I could use, however, I would be writing for hours.

My friend and I have been extremely close for many years. I finally had a conversation with her to STOP referring our kids as best friends because her son does not treat my son as a bestie should.  She broke down and confessed that she pushed the relationship with the boys, because she didn’t want to lose me as a friend; she thought that constant confirmation of our boys’ friendship would keep us as besties.

Since this conversation, which basically confirmed that her son doesn’t feel the same way as my son, I have had resentment towards her as I feel that she has been dishonest with me. I feel jealous of her son’s accomplishments; he is the ‘cool’ kid, makes school teams and has a little girlfriend whereas my son has many friends, but definitely isn’t considered ‘cool.’

My questions are many as I am confused with how I should feel towards my friend.  Am I wrong to be feeling this way towards her?  I feel very resentful. Also, I feel badly for my son. I asked him if everything is fine in school and he is constantly telling me that it is. I see all the kids hanging out after the bell rings, and my son is not in the crowd, so I feel very sad for him. My son is always asked to do stuff with the kids, but sometimes I think that it’s because all the parents are so receptive to driving and taking the kids places so that my son fits in.

Can you help me sort out this confusion?

Signed, Lilly


Hi Lilly,

It’s natural that when kids are younger, their friendships are driven in large part by their parents’ choices. Whether it’s a playground, daycare or playdate at someone’s home, we decide where to take our children, with whom they will socialize, and when. During those years, parents often form their own friendships with other parents because they have so much in common. Moreover, they get to know each other well by frequent contact and interaction.

As children get older, they want to have more of a say in determining their own friendships. While “D” and “C” may have been best friends, one or both of them may have outgrown each other. This is perfectly normal. One child may be more or less social, or mature faster than the other. Their interests may be diverging too.

If “D” is teasing your son, this may be his way of expressing frustration that his mom is dictating his friendships. Of course, this doesn’t excuse his nasty behavior. He should be learning to treat other children with respect and if he hasn’t, I can understand how painful this would be to you.

Both you and your friend seem to agree that the boys aren’t as compatible as they once were. So where do you go from here?

In terms of your son – He seems less upset by these changes than you do. Some children are perfectly happy not being part of a crowd. Unless he is having difficulties or is unable to find other friends, let him take the lead in creating his own relationships with his peers. You can coach him to stick up for himself if someone else is demeaning him but don’t overdo it by stepping in and handling his affairs for him. You might also offer your son opportunities to connect with kids over sports or other activities outside of school—but don’t pressure him if he doesn’t have interest.

In terms of you – Your friend’s behavior suggests that she wants to maintain a friendship with you. In fact, in some sense, she has overreached in trying to preserve the relationship by manipulating the one between your sons. If you enjoy her friendship, find ways to connect with her apart from the kids and let her know that your relationship with her isn’t solely dependent on the children. If being friends with her is too much of a problem for you now, distance yourself a bit without blaming her for your decision. You can’t ignore your feelings.

Other advice – Try to focus on your son’s strengths and not on the differences (deficits) you perceive between him and other children. Your son is still quite young and just coming into his own. Remember that each child, even among siblings, is different and grows at a different pace.

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships

Comments (2)

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  1. gina says:

    How sad it is that your friend manipulated the relationship between your two sons not thinking of what the boys might want. However, I can name a strength of your son already – he is resilient. If he gets ousted by the crowd that often and doesn’t seem affected by it, you should be excited. This is a resilient kid who goes against the grain — this is the kind of stuff world-changers are made of. Most of the greatest people in the world were not “cool kids.” Isaac Newton basically invented the foundation of modern science and he didn’t have a single friend! Your son has friends, too, so he’s already ahead of the game.

    I know what it’s like to be ousted by the in-crowd and not be cool. The ticket to using these powers for good is to not let the uncoolness get to you, because if you can keep a thick skin, then the world is yours. Not even kidding. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, play out over and over again with people I know.

    Your friend and her son share something in common – they don’t appear to think of others. Your friend didn’t think of you or her son OR your son when she decided to force a friendship. Her son doesn’t think of how his mistreatment of your son might make him feel. She is teaching him to be inconsiderate of others boundaries, needs, feelings, etc.

    I hope this helps give you some confidence and perspective. It’s good to teach children to be good people, to question what they learn, to be curious, and do not always go with the status quo. If you raise your son to be confident in himself and to think for himself, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Goes double for daughters.

  2. Amy says:

    It sounds to me like you’ve blurred the boundaries between your friendship, your son’s friendship, and your role in your son’s friendship. As children get older, their relationships generally are more independent of parents’ interventions. If C is being bullied, that’s a different story, but of what’s going or simply children renegotiating relationships, and learning their own skills in playground politics, you might be overly involved in your son’s friendship.
    Obviously, your son comes first, but it doesn’t sound to me like he’s bothered by your friendship with D’s mother as you are.
    It’s healthy that you admit you’re jealous of D’s popularity, because that shows you have insight and that you’re being honest with yourself! This means you’re open to change and growth. You might want to look at your own disappointments from your teen years and see how much you are projecting that onto your son. Not every kid wants to be the quarterback. Some are thrilled to star in the musical or to play in the band. Nurture and celebrate C’s talents. Maybe his personality is to shine with a small group of close friends, rather than a large group of acquaintances.
    Secondly, you can have a separate relationship with your friend, but if you resent or blame D, that will get in the way. If you keep open communication wirh your friend, you can have a healthy friendship. Additionally, it’s healthy for C to see that you have relationships separate from him, it’s part of his maturing process. Talk about these issues with your friend so you can move on, then continue the relationship independent of your sons.

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