Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tween Friendships

It's hard to know what to do when your daughter is friends with someone, so you became friends with the mom, and now the girls are no longer friends but you are still friends with the mom. It's also really hard to figure out what I'm trying to say in that sentence.

TJK has been friends with Sam since kindergarten. Sam lives right around the corner and they walk and ride bikes to each other's houses and have sleepovers and hang out nearly every day. Well, they used to.

Now, TJK is not so fond of Sam anymore, and from what she told me, I can understand why. Sam is kind of whiny and she cries over everything and overreacts and storms off - basically, she is full of tantrums and that gets old, especially when you are nearly 12. They aren't little kids anymore. They are on the cusp of being teenagers and that kind of behavior can get annoying really quickly.

TJK has lots of other friends. Now, instead of going to Sam's, she is hanging out with any one of 8 or 10 other girls. So while I noticed she was no longer hanging out with Sam, I wasn't too worried because she is still surrounded by friends and isn't longing for her friendship with Sam. But Sam's mom emailed me yesterday, asking for help.

Sam doesn't have a lot of other friends. In fact, last year her mom told me that TJK was her only friend (and TJK acknowledged this and said that was one of the main reasons she hung out with her - she felt bad). So her mom is looking for me to help build a bridge between the girls, which I get because hers is suffering and it sucks to watch your kid suffer.

But TJK is good. She is fine with not hanging out with Sam anymore. She sees her in school and that's enough for her. I talked it all through with her last night and she has actually given it thought and weighed her options and taken the time to look at the entirety of their friendship...and based on what she has experienced, she has decided it's not worth it anymore.

Sam's mom told me that Sam is seeing a therapist. She seems to be a very sensitive kid who has just a small handful of friends who she holds up to nearly impossible standards, and then feels disappointed and angry when they can't meet those standards. TJK feels that she has been a really good friend to Sam - comforting her continuously when she gets sad or has a tantrum - and Sam doesn't seem to appreciate it. I can't blame TJK for saying "that's it, I've had enough."

But, when I'm friends with Sam's mom and I see her struggling and in pain because her daughter is struggling and in pain, it's hard to know how to guide TJK. I want to value and trust her opinions and decisions about who she wants to be friends with (and reinforce the idea that she gets to decide who is in and out of her life - she doesn't have to stay in relationships that make her feel bad or sad). But I also want her to be able to have compassion for her friend who is going through a rough time, and cut her some slack. That balance is not so easy, because tweens can be painfully black-and-white without seeing the many shades of grey.

So I'm going to see Sam's mom tonight, and we will talk and try to come up with a solution that helps her daughter while not hurting mine. And then, if the attempt does not work, we will see if she and I can remain friends when my kid wants nothing to do with hers.

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