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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 middle school tween needs to know that they are never stuck in an unhealthy friendship.

Is your tween in a friendship with someone who makes them feel not good enough? Give them permission to leave the friendship. Teach them how to break up with a friend. They deserve someone that will treat them with love and respect.

If they have trouble deciding whether to save the friendship or let go of it, your tween 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 middle schooler 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 tween 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 that friend asks you to do something. Let your tween know they can politely decline an invitation without backlash. Should they choose this path, remind them that they need to do so with as little drama as possible. That means giving an honest reason for not being able to hang out. This means that your child will need plans, whether it is hanging out with mom or doing homework or spending time with other friends, all healthy alternatives to the former friend. Finally, it’s important for your tween to repeat themself until the other person accepts their answer.

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

Your middle school child may decide in a few months that they want to try hanging out with their former friend 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. Friendship might still possible with that individual.

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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