How to navigate adult bff breakup that's affecting my kid
September 21, 2022 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My best friend of several years cut off contact with me and with it, contact with most of my social circle and my child's social circle. I am dealing with my feelings of hurt and rejection, but my main concern is how to support my child, who I can tell is hurting too.

We've been friends since before our daughters (now 7/8) were born. The kids have grown up together. Our families have spent Christmas Eves together, all of our birthdays together, and seen each other on average about twice a week for years.

I don't want to get into all the details of why it happened, but the whole thing was confusing and sudden and full of mixed messages and deeply fucking hurtful. We were more than just friends, we were a family. And as a single mom with no parents in the area, I don't use that term lightly.

The girls have had a few playdates but my daughter is definitely noticing the change. Going from seeing her best friend twice a week to seeing her twice a month is a big shift.

Also, apparently her friend said that they can't see each other as much because her mom/my former best friend doesn't want to talk to me any more. (this lead to a devastating scene where my daughter cried and begged me to fix things and suggested several things we could do to make it right. i was patient and loving and explained to her that you can't force someone to be your friend, but inside i was filled with rage because why the hell bring the kids into adult conflict??!)

A few weeks ago, my daughter saw a lovely piece of art and begged to get it as a birthday gift for my friend. Yesterday was her birthday, so we dropped it off on the porch, along with a couple of books from me.

On the way home, my daughter started sobbing about how my friend is probably having a birthday party that we aren't invited to and how we're not invited to anything any more and how we're being left out of everything.

It's so hard because it's true. My former friend is the center of the social group, kind of the queen bee, so now most of the people in my friend group have stopped inviting us to things.

I'm working on building new connections and making new friends and managing my own feelings of confusion and hurt and anger. But I don't know how to process this with my kid and support her as she grapples with her own feelings about it.

Also my kid is very much not down with talking about her emotions, so ideas on how I can help her without making her feel uncomfortable or on the spot are also very welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's going to be hard to give you meaningful guidance without more details because the amount of candor/"I'm not sure why Ex-Friend decided that, but you're right, it hurts my feelings too" or whatever will REALLY depend on what happened. That said, I think you should also focus some time on reassuring your daughter that YOUR bond will never break, that you will never fade from her life etc.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:51 AM on September 21 [5 favorites]

This is awful and I mostly want to sympathize (I had a post-divorce friend-and-kid-friend loss that was infinitely less bad because my kids were old enough to maintain the relationship on their own, and the breach was more plausibly deniable as just drifting apart, but close enough that I can really see how hard your situation is.)

My only possibly helpful thought, beyond just offering sympathy, is to wonder how much you can facilitate your daughter’s ongoing relationship with her friend. Host more play dates to the extent it’s possible to arrange them? Maybe reach out to the ex-friend to make it clear that to the extent they want to invite your daughter without you to their events, you’re good with that and will support it? This involves you being quietly martyred to a certain extent, but if it would work and wouldn’t hurt too much for you, it might make your daughter happier.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:54 AM on September 21 [9 favorites]

Oh, this is so heartbreaking. I'm so sorry. I've been friend-dumped before as an adult, and it was so awful, and what you're describing is ten times worse.

All I can think of is to continue with the playdates even at their lower rate (invite the other kid over, maybe, or arrange outings that you chaperone); make sure your girl has as much love and normalcy outside of this as you can; and trust that time will help. Time heals everything, eventually.

It sounds like you've already acknowledged the truth of the situation to your girl. I imagine you've also told her that it's not right for grownups to let their feelings cause them to be unkind to children, and that you wish it could be kept separate.

Hugs to you and your girl.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:55 AM on September 21 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry about this.

I admit this is a gut feeling - but I'm wondering if simply quietly admitting, to your kid, now and then, that you feel sad about losing your friend as well might help. Sometimes a kid who doesn't like to talk about her feelings just needs an adult role model just saying that they have those feelings too as well to get it that "Oh, okay, this is an okay thing to talk about."

I don't know if you remember the Free To Be You And Me kids' album from the 70s, but there's a song called It's Alright to Cry which is simply about approval to feel strong emotion. It ends with the singer (who happens to be Rosie Grier, a football player) addressing a little boy and saying "It's alright to cry, I know some big boys who cry sometimes too." Sometimes that simple bit of permission is all a kid needs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on September 21 [13 favorites]

Seconding that it could be valuable for your daughter to see you managing this, modeling how it's a slow, imperfect process. Nobody ever navigates these situations perfectly, so there's no sense in hiding that from her.

It sounds like while your daughter doesn't want to discuss emotions out of context/on the spot, she is comfortable sharing her hurt with you as it happens -- sobbing in the car, suggesting you buy your friend the gift, and so on. The thing to do there, as hard as it is, is to try and stay present in both her emotions and yours--rather than automatically soothing or shutting down. (Both completely understandable instincts!) Work to validate her hurt and not minimize the situation, and if you're also hurting in those moments, share that.

It can be scary when you're a kid and adults are doing hurtful things because as a kid, you assume adults are correct, and know what to do, and are somehow this mysterious thing called "Grown Up," which means they'd never be petty, or shitty, or cut someone out just to avoid awkwardness. As an adult dealing with a kid, it's tricky -- you can't just tell a kid, "hey, these people you depend on for your very existence are sometimes mean terrible dipshits for literally no reason," because that's destabilizing (albeit extremely true).

But it's ok to say, when the topic comes up, that sometimes even grownups don't know the right things to say. And sometimes friendships have hard times, and people may try to be kind but they can also screw up.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:25 AM on September 21 [5 favorites]

As a single parent with similar experiences, even with actual family members, my only regret (in this area) is not straightening up, telling my kids that sometimes people just plain suck, and taking them on a whitewater rafting trip, or dogsledding, or to see Green Day.

Trying to understand someone else's motivations is only sensible up to a point, and learning to cut our losses and move on fiercely in a new direction is a skill many people - women in particular, including me - learn way too late. This is an opportunity for your daughter to learn to shrug and think "eh, their loss" and mean it. She's not just listening to what you say, she's watching how you live. How you do it is how she'll do it.
posted by headnsouth at 11:22 AM on September 21 [41 favorites]

We had a huge friend fallout that had similar consequences for my younger kid around that age. It was so hard and terrible. He used to see the other kids multiple times a week (they lived nearby) and then hardly ever after that. I don't know if it helps you at all to hear this, but this same kid, now in high school, has an incredibly rich friend group with lots of great connections. I know that's a long way away from where you are now.

Did you tell your daughter anything about all this before the friend did? If not, it's time to come up with some version of what you want to share and also talk about your own feelings. You've said you have your own feelings of hurt but your primary concern is supporting your daughter. Here's the deal: sharing your feelings of hurt might actually be part of supporting your daughter. You've said your daughter isn't sharing her emotions, but it also sounds like you aren't sharing yours. So, start to model in small ways what you hope she will do. For example...

i was patient and loving and explained to her that you can't force someone to be your friend, but inside i was filled with rage because why the hell bring the kids into adult conflict
Patient and loving is great. But also... how about "I'm really sad too. I miss so-and-so too. I'm so hurt that we won't be spending as much time with so-and-so anymore." Even if your daughter isn't saying these feelings, it's okay for you to say what you are feeling, what might along the same lines.

Instead of disagreeing with her suggestions, just validate her. "It's so hard, I know." "I'm upset too." "You are so mad right know, I know." Maybe give all that a whirl and see how it goes.

I'm sorry this has all happened. It really sucks.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:22 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

Your daughter might be a bit old for this, but my 5-1/2 year old LOVES stories about "that happened to me." E.g., "I was scared when I started kindergarten too." Do you have any stories from when you were younger in which a friend stopped playing with you? Also, this totally sucks and I'm sorry.
posted by slidell at 10:26 PM on September 22

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