I see this often. Someone will come to me and tell me that their friend is being unkind and hurting their feelings. What they are doing is usually making the other child feel left out or undervalued. It’s not bullying necessarily, but the impact is still hurtful. The first thing I always ask is, “Have you told them how what they are doing is making you feel?” Nine out of ten times the answer is, “no,” but then it is usually followed up with this implied sense that they have to accept the behavior because they have always been friends with this person and have to continue to be friends with them.
In reality, we as adults know that throughout our lives we have seen many friends come and go. Friends are there for a season, or a shared experience. We were so close to that friend from that week at camp. We kept up on our correspondence back and forth for a couple of months and then we drifted apart. We had certain friends we were close with in grade school and a different group we found in high school. We had friends we thought would be our friends for life and found that time goes by and those friendships fade. Or, we may find a friendship that does last a lifetime.
Our students do not have the life perspective that we have. To them, these friendships are everything and the thought of letting one go is devastating. Here are some ways according to Eileen Kennedy Moore, PhD from Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/growing-friendships/201205/make-new-friends-keep-the-old-or-not) that you can help your child cope with a fading or broken friendship:
- Empathize with them. Step into their shoes and try to remember how it feels to lose a friend.
- Don’t encourage retaliation. Nothing good comes from getting someone back for something that they did to you. I always tell students that you do not have to be best friends with them, but you do have to be kind and respectful.
- Encourage relationship repair. It doesn’t have to be the end of the friendship. Encourage the child to let their friend know how what they are doing is making them feel. You can also let the child know they can step back for a time and have some distance until they are ready to move forward again.
- Help them to know when to let the friendship go. It’s hard, but there are times when it is best not to be friends. If mean and unkind behavior is continuously happening, it may be best to let go of that friend.
- Encourage multiple friendships. It is always important in my opinion to encourage children to experience many friendships. Kids can have several circles of friendships.