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When Your Child's Friends Become Enemies

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 30 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Children Friends Enemies

Nothing sends a parent’s heart soaring like a child making a new friend, and nothing can send it crashing like a child’s friend becoming an enemy. It may seem like this change happens inexplicably in the blink of an eye, but usually neither is true. There are ways parents can spot the kinds of friends who may turn into enemies, and there are ways that parents can help their children through fights with friends. Talking with children about ending friendships and teaching children to “love their enemies” will also help children cope when friends become enemies.

Spotting Friends Who May Become Enemies

Some friends just aren’t healthy for your child, and these friends are likely the ones who will disagree with your child, cause a blow-up and eventually become an enemy. Parents can often spot these friends because of how they interact with others. Children who judge others (“You are SO slow at maths, you must be stupid!”), children who use others (“I’m only friends with Hannah because her mum takes us to the cinema on the weekend,”), children who engage in one-sided relationships (“Shh! I have to tell you about why I hate ice cream and your story isn’t important.”) and children who boss around other children (“No, we won’t play football because I hate football so we’ll only play rugby.”) are all bad friends who may eventually become enemies.

Helping Your Child Get Through Fights With Friends

Children often feel things intensely, so best friends who disagree might quickly come to be viewed as worst enemies. When children are still young enough that they haven’t fought with friends before, it may feel like one disagreement is all it takes for a friendship to end. Talk with your child about a disagreement they’ve had with a friend, and let them know that all relationships run into rough patches. If appropriate, share a story about a fight you and a friend had, and how you two made up when it was over. Ask your child how (s)he thinks (s)he could bring about an end to the fight, and if there is anything (s)he could do to let the friend know that (s)he still cares about their relationship. Stress that physical responses are never appropriate, no matter what kind of fights friends get into, and instead remind your child that using words is much more important and effective when it comes to getting through a fight with a friend.

Talking With Your Child About Ending Friendships

Just as important as helping your child through a fight with a friend is talking with your child about ending friendships. Again, children who haven’t experienced many fights won’t know that some relationships can be saved and others are better off ending. Discuss ways in which your child could communicate to someone else that the friendship has ended and prepare lines for your child to have at the ready should they be tempted into renewing a friendship. Something as simple as “I’m sorry, I’m very busy after school and just don’t have time for rollerblading in the park right now” will politely get across the message that a friendship is over if it is repeated often enough. Being more upfront, for example saying “I’m sorry, but after you told Lisa about my fear of pencil sharpeners I can’t trust you and I can’t be friends with someone I can’t trust” might also work if more subtle approaches don’t. Just make sure that your child understand the finality of ending a friendship, and doesn’t end one without offering a second chance if appropriate.

Teaching Your Child to “Love Your Enemies”

Sometimes, no matter how children deal with fights or attempt to end friendships, some friends turn into enemies who just won’t go away. These enemies often engage in bullying behaviour, whether it’s physically aggressive (taunting a child, acting physically against a child) or emotionally draining (making a child feel guilty, playing on a child’s sweeter nature). Talk with your child about why someone may be acting that way. Help your child see what might be going on behind their previous friend’s behaviour and why your child should still be nice to that person. This doesn’t mean that your child should accept this bad behaviour though. Remind your child that such behaviour is never acceptable and talk about how they can deal with it and when to get other adults involved if needed.

When your child’s friends become enemies it can be a confusing, frustrating, painful time for everyone involved. As a parent you may be able to spot friends likely to turn into enemies take steps to help your child when this happens. Helping your child get through fights with friends, talking with your child about ending friendships and teaching your child to “love your enemies” should all help to resolve problems before they become unmanageable.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi , My 11 year old is always getting instigated by friends. He will put his sister down if his friends don't like her. He does not mind putting us down in front of his friends. His friends have a problem about something and it ends up becoming my son's problem. My son obviously ends up in trouble as we as parents react right away and try to correct our son. We try to explain to our son that his friends Play him but things don't seem to be changing as yet. We as parents are trying not to socialize as we have no idea how to handle our son.Basically , if his friends don't like a situation they play my son to voice their disapproval and we as parents end up correcting our son which becomes a bigger scene in a social situation . My concern is How do we make our son aware of people playing him . I feel he has low self esteem and I don't know what to do to help him . Do you think school's councilors can help or what can we do to make our son understand
judo - 30-May-17 @ 8:59 PM
Mirre - Your Question:
My son has been friends with a boy for almost two years. After a year it just came to light that my 17 year old son and the friends sister (15yrs) liked each other and has been communicating with each other. The brother (18 yrs) is very protective over his sister and seems lately often takes her phone and check on her. After a year the friend found out about my son and his sister like for each other and now is accusing my son of being untrue towards him and a backstabber? My son says that he and the sister no longer feel any romantic feelings for each other anymore but stayed friends. My son explained to his friend that he ment no harm and cannot see why this should be an issue to end their friendship, but if he wants to end the friendship he will move on. I can see that although he makes it off as if it does not bother him, it does. Should I get involved and speak to the friend or how do I as a mother go about saving the friendship?

Our Response:
As a mother of a 17 year old, you can't do anything proactive to help your son's relationships apart from to be there for him if he needs you. It's up to him to sort this out, and it sounds like he's done the right thing already. Make sure your son knows how to assess the impact of any potential decision he makes and how to cope if he gets hurt...that's about all you can do.
KidsBehaviour - 17-Jan-17 @ 10:29 AM
My son has been friends with a boy for almost two years. After a year it just came to light that my 17 year old son and the friends sister (15yrs) liked each other and has been communicating with each other. The brother (18 yrs) is very protective over his sister and seems lately often takes her phone and check on her. After a year the friend found out about my son and his sister like for each other and now is accusing my son of being untrue towards him and a backstabber? My son says that he and the sister no longer feel any romantic feelings for each other anymore but stayed friends. My son explained to his friend that he ment no harm and cannot see why this should be an issue to end their friendship, but if he wants to end the friendship he will move on. I can see that although he makes it off as if it does not bother him, it does. Should I get involved and speak to the friend or how do I as a mother go about saving the friendship?
Mirre - 16-Jan-17 @ 6:50 AM
@Anu. Your husband is probably right. If the boys are now friends or your son no longer seems bothered, then as a parent leave well alone. Sometimes it's best to lend an ear to your child, offer advice if they want it and then let them get on with things. When parents get involved, it often ends up in tears all round! Of course if it becomes persistent or you'd class it as bullying, then report to the school.
allpartoflife - 15-Sep-15 @ 9:51 AM
my 10 year old son has just been through a painful time with his friends. On the Sunday - the 3 boys were at home practising for a drama poem, (which my son wrote), on the Monday he bought them all chips from the tuckshop- had no money to buy himself any and they ditched him and ran away. Then it was ditching him at lunch break, then taunting him. Seems to all be instigated by the kid he thought was his 'best 'friend and who he has been close to for 2 years. i'ts been heart breaking for me. i wanted to call their parents but the taunting stopped, so i left it alone. My husband says that I shouldn't get involved as these are life lessons.
Anu - 14-Sep-15 @ 7:07 AM
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