HerTake

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children's friendship

Can The Adults’ Friendship Survive After The Children’s Friendship Ends?

Two questions came in recently dealing with children’s friendship dilemmas when the parents are good friends. Should the parents get involved? Can the adults’ friendship remain intact even if the kids’ friendship does not? Since the questions are short, Nina included both.

children's friendship

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

Dear Nina,

My “tweenaged” daughter has a friend who has repeatedly been less than kind. My daughter has told the girl how she feels on at least two occasions. I have encouraged my daughter to try to help her friend understand how she feels if she wants the friendship to last.

Here’s the complicated part. I consider the girl’s mom a friend. Do I talk to my friend with the hope that she can help her daughter think more about my daughter’s feelings? Do I advise my daughter to put space between her and someone who continues to treat her poorly? Do I just treat my friendship with the mom separately? I tend to not avoid things, but this feels tricky because it is not just my relationship, it is also my daughter’s.

Signed,

Should My Friend and I Help Our Daughters?

Dear Nina,

How do you maintain a friendship with someone when the children’s friendship has ended? I have dealt with this a lot over the years, but have a particularly tough one right now as the mom is one of my closest friends and her daughter is being awful to my daughter now. (They are in high school and were best friends until recently.)

Signed,

I Don’t Want to Lose My Friend

 

Dear fellow moms,

My initial instinct in response to the general question of whether a friendship can survive the children’s friendship issues is YES. My more nuanced answer is that it depends on the strength of that adult relationship and the maturity of the two women involved.

If the feelings towards an adult friend are going to imitate the ups and downs of the adolescents involved, then that does not bode well for the adult friendship. We survived the volatile social norms of the tween and teenage years once already so why would we want to go through it all again? If we can’t be friends with someone when the kids aren’t getting long, perhaps that suggests boundary issues between us and our own children, as in we are too wrapped up in our kids’ experiences rather than allowing them to have their own, yes, bad feelings. I believe in helping kids learn to handle their social situations with guidance, but not with a full takeover where parents mirror the kids’ reactions.

Try Hard Not To Be a “Wave Rider”

I know it’s tempting to ride the waves with our kids because we hate to see them feeling left out or mistreated. But if we are also riding the waves, then who is standing steady on the shore ready to give sound advice?

As for what kind of advice to give your daughter when her friend’s mom is your good friend, I say it shouldn’t differ at all from the advice you’d give her if the other parents were strangers. Listen carefully, don’t assign blame, and help your daughter learn how to stand up for herself while treating the next person with dignity. This can take an entire lifetime!

I’m 40, and I still ask my mom’s advice on relationships from time to time. Why do I still go to my mom? Because she was not a wave-rider when I was a teenager. I knew her take on a situation would be balanced and helpful and not simply an echo of what I might get from my own friends.

I love how the first letter worded the advice she was considering for her daughter: “Do I advise my daughter to put space between her and someone who continues to treat her poorly?” That expression “put space” is so perfect because it is so much less dramatic and traumatic than ending a friendship and it allows time for issues to work themselves out.

We certainly don’t want our kids getting treated badly just because we like the other kid’s parents. At the same time, I think it’s safe to assume that the other mom is getting a different story from her own daughter and it’s a good idea to acknowledge (especially to ourselves) that there are two sides to most stories. I prefer the idea of the adult friends not getting involved directly with the children’s friendship drama because it’s not the parents’ right or business to divulge each other’s daughter’s stories.

However, not getting involved in the drama does not mean ignoring the fact that it’s happening. I think the two moms can even acknowledge that their girls are going through a rough time and that the kids’ friendship may not survive. If the adults can name the possibility of such an outcome and detach themselves before it happens, then I don’t see why the adult friendship needs to change. It may take one or two active conversations between the adults where a decision is made that they will remain friends no matter what happens with the kids.

My kids have had friendship issues here and there, including with the kids of my friends, but none have ever escalated to the point of the children’s friendships completely ending. I consulted some friends of mine who have been closer to the situations described in the two letters.

The Most Important Friendships Will Endure

I knew that my friend Julie Burton, author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, had dealt with a situation like this before.

She said, “It can be really difficult, and sometimes impossible to maintain the friendship at least while kids are struggling. It’s one thing if the kids just drift apart but remain cordial (this has happened with a handful of my close friends and our children), but if your friend’s child is being hurtful to your child (or maybe your child is the culprit), your alliance almost always will be with your child, and therefore things can get tricky between moms. The most important thing I have learned over the past 22 years of managing these types of situations and relationships is that the friendships that mean the most to you—the ones that are supportive, respectful, and fulfilling—will stand the test of time and some bumps along the road, including kid-related conflicts.”

Kathleen, another woman I know and respect with older kids also had good advice. “I have had friendships survive and flourish even if our children are no longer friends, but we acknowledged that our children were going in different directions. We each were able to feel awful, to try not to judge, to still love each other’s kids, and to reframe the friendship. You have to really want it, but it can be worth it. And one of the unanticipated outcomes is that sometimes, the kids become young adults and become friends again. But that is not the goal. The goal is to keep someone you enjoy and connect with in your life, as a person with the same values and who makes you laugh and the friendship is defined by you, not your kids.”

The last person I consulted is my own childhood best friend, Taryn, who always has the best advice. Taryn and I share the lucky experience of having moms who gave us good advice as kids. I remember her mom giving me advice, too! We both still quote our mothers often. Taryn read the two questions above and had this to say:

What Does Friendship Look Like?

“Kids are learning constantly how to treat people and be a friend. You could argue by the success of this column that we are all still learning these lessons into adulthood. If I was in this situation as a parent, then I’d see it’s my job to teach my daughter what friendship looks like. I’d teach her to gravitate towards people who fill her up, but also to have compassion from afar. Clearly something is going on with the other girl. To me the most important message is for the daughter to not feel any pressure either way to stay friends because of the relationship between the mothers. If the other mom reaches out and asks about the shift in the friendship between the kids, then you can just say they weren’t getting along and when they are ready they will figure it out. A moment like this is an opportunity for us to teach that friendships can have shifts, but that burning a bridge doesn’t have to be the solution. In a month it may totally change. That’s how girls are.”

Readers, I know you have opinions and we’d love to hear them. Please comment below!

Thank you,

Nina

You can follow our friendship advice columnist Nina Badzin on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

HerTake: Friend Connectors vs. Friend Hoarders

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who is tired of sharing her friends with a close friend who hoards her own friends and acquaintances. Are you a friend connector or a friend hoarder? Help our letter writer decide what to do!

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

Dear Nina,

I often introduce my friends or acquaintances to each other because it me makes me happy to do so. I like helping my friends, and adding the joy of new friends or good work connections to their lives is easy to do so why wouldn’t I? People often say I’m a great connector and generous with my relationships, and I take both comments as big compliments.

I’m sure you know there’s a “however” coming next. I have a close friend, “Joanna,” who I’ve introduced to numerous friends over the past two decades, whether casually at a bigger event or more purposely such as inviting her family over for dinner at the same time as another family if I think they will all get along. Joanna, however, never introduces me to her friends and acquaintances. I know some by now after two decades of friendship, but that’s because of the big events of Joanna’s we’ve all attended (birthdays, etc.) as opposed to her doing anything to bring us together on purpose.

I can literally be at a fundraiser or some other event with Joanna and a person will come up to us that is new to me and Joanna will start talking to the person without taking the minute to even do a basic, “Oh, this is so and so who I know from my old job. And so and so, this is Connie an old friend of mine.” You get the idea. I’m not suggesting Joanna should arrange an intimate dinner every time she makes a new friend so that I can meet her, but she could include me every so often, or at the very least introduce me when I’m standing around while she and her friend/colleague/acquaintance are talking in my presence.

It would be impossible to count the social connections Joanna has made through me. What makes me feel worse (mostly I feel bad about my feelings about it all) is that Joanna is generally a good friend to me. I can trust her and she goes out of her way for me like offering to pick me up at the airport (and actually doing it) or lending me a dress for a vacation—stuff like that. I appreciate all that and more, but the friend hoarding really bothers me. I don’t know why she has to keep everyone so separate.

I’m not saying I want to end the friendship at all. I’m just wondering if I should stop inviting Joanna to do things with other friends of mine as I make new ones in the future. Why should I open my social world to her every time I meet someone new and yet she never feels compelled to do the same for me? I see my own words here and at almost 50 years old, I know I sound so petty. But I’m feeling stuck. I can’t stop dwelling on it, and I’m not sure what to do.

Thanks for any advice,

Connie (not my real name)

Dear Connie,

I relate to this question more than any other in the past two years. I’m not a perfect friend. I make mistakes as everyone does. But one aspect of friendship I excel at is making connections. Like you, I do not hoard my friends and it brings me pleasure to see people from otherwise random parts of my life forge a friendship of some kind.

I also related to the situation you described of standing around awkwardly in a conversation while I wait for a friend to introduce me. What is wrong with people? I often end up introducing myself. I am probably an extreme over-introducer because of how much I hate that moment of standing there twiddling my thumbs. I’ve introduced people who unbeknownst to me have been friendly for years or are even related. I simply don’t like the idea of two people standing near each other who have not been introduced. And that is true on a deeper level, too. If I know two people (even just online) who could hit it off socially or help each other in their professions, then I am uneasy until I’ve connected them whether it’s through a dinner at my house, a meal out, a simple email, or even a Tweet to both of them together in the case of my writer buddies.

But now I have to take a step back from my self-congratulation and ask you to do the same. The fact that you and I take the “connector” label as a compliment means we value the idea of connecting people to each other and we also value being connected to others. The thing is that not everyone prioritizes values the same way when it comes to relationships. Beyond the basics of kindness, decency, and trust, there really is not a right and wrong for how to be a good friend.

Let’s take the airport example. I’m not sure I have ever offered anyone a ride to or from the airport, and frankly if someone asked me for one I might even be a little annoyed. Why? I would never expect a ride at this point in our lives. Everyone is so busy and nobody else’s travel plans are my problem nor should my plans be my friends’ concern. I can barely get myself to and from the places I need to go let alone take on someone else’s transportation needs.

I have to give Joanna kudos. I consider myself a really good friend to a large handful of women in town, and yet it would honestly never occur to me to make that offer and even after reading about Joanna’s generosity of time I still wouldn’t. This may seem like a small gesture to examine, but it demonstrates a larger point about relationships. We all show our love for our friends in different ways, and ideally we all give each other the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Joanna has been disappointed that when she mentions a trip coming up you don’t offer a ride. Wouldn’t it be nice if Joanna said to herself, “Connie has gone out of her way to introduce me to so many people and obviously loves me. I’m not going to hold the lack of airport pickups against her.” Hey, maybe she has said that to herself!

As for why Joanna keeps all of her friends separate, that is impossible to know. I’ve seen that pattern in some friends of mine, too. Perhaps Joanna has been burned before by bringing friends together who have better chemistry with each other than either has with her and then she gets left out. It happens! It has certainly happened to me, and I imagine it has to you as well if you’ve been a connector for your entire adult life. That fact hasn’t stopped me (or you), but I will say it takes significant internal confidence to rise above our natural tendencies to hoard relationships. Go us!

So now what? Should you keep sharing your friends? I say yes. I don’t believe in using someone else’s limits to dictate your own behavior. You do YOU. If making those connections is how you demonstrate your appreciation of your friends, then I wouldn’t stop for Joanna or anyone. I assume Joanna keeps offering you rides and her clothes even if neither gesture is something you would do for her. And I also assume that after two decades of friendship she has shown you other generous sides of herself. Focus on those good things and force yourself not expect to meet her other friends. That’s simply not something Joanna is good at or wants to share, but it doesn’t seem like it’s directed at you personally.

As a side note, Connie, your confidence about making new friends as an adult is so refreshing. You probably don’t realize how rare it is (at least in my inbox filled with anonymous questions) to have such a calm assuredness that you will continue to make new friends as life goes on. Good for you! And thanks for the question. You made me realize I have to let go of expecting the same amount of connection-making from others as well.

Nina

 

You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

 

 

 

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