The grief of losing a connection can be singularly painful, causing children to wallow in rejection and parents to worry, but there are steps parents can take to alleviate this very natural, albeit painful, part. growth.
It is this piece of identification that complicates friendships in early adolescence. Around the age of 11, children begin the work necessary to discover who they are as individuals, apart from their parents. It forces kids to try out a lot of new things, which is why we see them experimenting with new clothes, hairstyles, musical tastes and, yes, even friends.
For pre-teens, it is no longer inevitable that they will remain friends with the same children from their neighborhood or from their primary school. Finding out who they are is a process of trial and error … and error and error. Young people will often change their minds about what – and who – suits them best, before settling down with certainty in their choices.
While making friends might seem like a part of life that should be natural and easy, college makes it quite difficult. During this part of life, change is constant, but most children do not change in the same way at the same time. The body, brain, and even social skills of adolescents develop at very different rates.
I tell parents to imagine gears on a board, which all spin at different speeds. Sometimes two gears find a groove and connect, but most of the time they just bounce off each other.
Parents of teenagers may notice, for example, that their college student is moving away from a once close friend because one still wants to play make-believe games and the other wants to focus on the latest social media apps or video games and TV shows with more mature content. Eventually kids stop changing so much and settle into comfortable relationships, but it takes time.
Normalize friendships that end
If possible, parents should bring up this topic before it happens so that children don’t feel caught off guard if a friend no longer shares their close feelings. Look for examples in songs, shows, or books to use as a starting point to start this conversation.
Tweens are likely to be more receptive to hearing about the loss of friendships from others than their own. Using this therapeutic technique called ‘talking on the go’, which allows a person to listen and analyze without feeling defensive or embarrassed, can increase your teen’s willingness to engage initially when the subject seems theoretical and not personal.
Set behavioral expectations
If a friendship ends, that’s no reason to start ignoring the other person, bashing them, or telling other friends the details of the breakup. Especially when many tweens and teens communicate largely through digital technology, including group texts and social media apps, there is a greater potential for rumors to fly or an injured person to be constantly reminded. of loss.
Create opportunities to make new friends
Tweens and teens need to be exposed to many new things to understand who they are, including experiences and people. More chances of trying new things and meeting new people naturally increase your child’s chances of finding their place. Neurodivergent children, such as those with ADHD or who are autistic, in particular, find adolescent friendships particularly difficult.
Besides helping make new friends – including being a part-time driver if you can – there’s not much parents should be doing to get involved when friendships end. In particular, be careful not to disparage the other person when a friendship comes to an end. “I never liked him anyway” may seem like a show of solidarity or empathy, but kids hear criticism from an old friend as an indictment of their own choosing. You can stay right on your kid’s corner without saying bad things about their old friend.
Keep in mind that your child can end a friendship as well, and because friendships change so often at this age, children sometimes turn to each other. You don’t want to have to go back over everything you’ve said if this happens.
While the end of friendships is sad, there can still be a sense of comfort, and even excitement, in tweens trying new things and new friendships as they form their adult identities.
Michelle Icard is a parenting author, educator and speaker. Learn more on his Instagram @micheleicard.