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Sometimes a Friendship Breakup Can Be the Right Thing to Do

Take a trip down middle school memory lane and chances are you’ll end up strolling by a frenemy or two. We’ve all been there.

Most adult women I know are still troubled by the memory of a mean girl from middle school. She’d pretend to be a friend when she needed something from them, but would throw that friend under the social bus as soon as a better opportunity came by, whether it was to gain popularity or be friends with a different group of kids.

Your child needs to know that they are never stuck in an unhealthy friendship.

Are they friends with someone who makes them feel ‘not good enough’? Give them permission to leave a friendship. Teach them how to break up with a friend. They deserve someone that will treat them with respect.

If they have trouble deciding whether to save the friendship or let go of it, your child may want to try talking it to out with that friend as the first line of defense. It’s important to use “I” statements rather than accusing the other person of wrongdoing. Instead of saying “You always hang out with other people and you don’t try to include me,” your child might say, “I feel left out sometimes and I wish we could hang out more.” An honest conversation about personal feelings that doesn’t put anyone on the defensive may work toward patching up problems.

Sometimes, though, your child may want to exit the friendship altogether and break up with a friend.  Let her know that even though it can be difficult to leave a friendship, it’s not a bad thing to do and does not make her a bad person. In fact, it’s the right thing to do if it protects her feelings of self-worth.

The most drama-free way to exit a bad friendship is to be unavailable whenever a frenemy asks you to do something. Let your child know she can politely decline an invitation without backlash. Should she choose this path, remind her that she needs to do so with as little drama as possible. That means not making up lies and giving an honest reason for not being able to hang out. This means that your child will have to have other plans, whether it is hanging out with mom or doing homework or spending time with other friends, all healthy alternatives to the frenemy. Finally, it’s important to repeat yourself until the other person accepts your answer.

During the tween and teen years, when kids are still figuring out who they are, friendships are fairly fluid and unstable.

Your child may decide in a few months that she wants to try hanging out with the frenemy again.  It’s easier to mend a friendship when the friendship breakup hinged on being unavailable than when it involved a major confrontation or insult. Oftentimes, friendship is still possible with that individual.

Michelle Icard

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at

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