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Dealing With Kids' Friendships: Three's a Crowd

How one mom is helping her child cope with life's tough lessons.

Watching your child cry over a friendship could be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I've had a parent. I would go to the ends of the earth to protect my child, but her feelings are just out there on her sleeve, and I'm quickly learning that there are some things I cannot protect her from.

My daughter is in the throes of a friendship threesome. The moment a third little girl entered the picture, I knew we were headed down a tough road. As a child, I spilt many tears over sleepovers, friendship necklaces, and seats at the lunch table. No matter how much my girlfriends and I loved one another, there inevitably would be a divide, where two would stick together and one would feel so left out.

I had a Freaky Friday moment the other day while consoling my daughter, when she looked up at me with big tears and asked, "Why does she like her better than she likes me?" I flash-backed to my Holly Hobbie bedroom where my mom wiped those same tears from my eyes. I know now that in a week or so, the dynamic will shift, and my daughter will not be the one feeling left out, but that doesn't keep her little heart from breaking right now.

So, what's a mom to do? The kids are not doing anything to hurt my daughter. There's no bullying going on. They simply just want to play with each other. Talking to the kids about the situation will distance them further from my daughter. Talking to their parents about it doesn't seem helpful: are they going to force their kids to play with mine?

The only thing I can do is have a very honest conversation with my child. There are lots of kids out there who, if given a chance, would be great friends. She just has to put herself out there to get to know them. That means sitting on the bus with someone new, talking with new kids at the lunch table, playing with new friends on the playground, and inviting some new friends to come over for play dates.  

It's a hard lesson to learn: that her first friends won't be her last, that she can't make someone like her as much as she might like them, but if she can open herself up to the possibility of new friendships, she might discover that there was someone special waiting to be her friend all along.

Until then, I'll be her sideline coach, her personal pep rally, and hope my hugs help lessen the blow of life's tough lessons.

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