I think you get to a certain point in your life when you realize how important it is to have true friends and to keep yourself open to making new ones.
Years ago, a parent of one of my daughter’s classmates suggested we go to breakfast. I really didn’t know her at all, but agreed, thinking it would be nice to get out. We discovered we had much in common and got together regularly for some time after. As our lives grew busier, we eventually lost touch. But she taught me a valuable lesson: when you meet someone and something clicks, take a chance and make a new friend.
In kindergarten it is easy to walk up to someone and say, “Let’s be friends.” As an adult, it’s much more difficult, but possibly more important. Friends get us through the tough times, and make the good times more fun.
Like many parents, I’ve made many friends through my kids. Arranging playdates when they were younger meant talking to other parents which, in some cases, led to lasting friendships. This is common among parents, and almost expected.
But sometimes your child’s relationship ends. There are no guidelines telling us how parents should act when those relationships end. Can we remain friends with the parents of the former friend?
We shouldn’t be surprised at the changes in our kids’ relationship status. After all, few of our kindergarten friends are still our friends into our teens and beyond. At this age, relationships are sometimes fleeting, cliques form and shift.
As teens become young adults, they’re learning who they are, discovering what is important, and finding like-minded people to add to their circle. Sometimes, the friends they had in childhood have moved in a different direction. It’s not necessarily that they dislike each other, it’s just that they no longer have much in common.
Often, it’s the friendships that start in the younger grades that bring parents together. Sometimes entire families become a part of each other’s lives. They plan activities together and, even as they get older, the children continue to spend time together, simply because both families make plans to do so.
However, things get more complicated when your children reach adolescence. Parents have a tendency to overshare when talking to friends and the last thing a teenager wants is for mom or dad to share personal information that may trickle down to their peers and cause embarrassment. It can be difficult to convince your child that he or she is not the topic of conversation when you get together with your friend. After all, your child is used to seeing him or herself as the center of your universe. What else could you have to talk about?
This sensitivity may make a parent wonder if these friendships are allowed any longer. The onset of dating can complicate things even more. Being friends with your child’s girl or boyfriend’s parent can be awkward. If the relationship ends, will your friendship have to as well?
Even after doing some research, I still don’t have an answer. Much has been written about being friends with your child, and being friends with your child’s boy or girlfriend. There are a number of articles about how to cope when you dislike the parents of your child’s friends. And I found a few articles on making friends with other parents on the playground, including a match site to help parents find parent friends. However, there was nothing on being friends with the parents of the person your child is dating.
A friendship can easily be strained if your child’s feelings get hurt. It’s a parent’s instinct to protect and comfort, and taming the mama bear that wants to punish the offender is not always easy. But what if the offender is the child of one of your best friends?
On the one hand, parents can choose to have their own friendships regardless of their children’s relationships, and can keep these relationships separate. On the other hand, if your child is hurting, you don’t want to cause greater pain by maintaining a connection your child no longer has.
If your friendship with the other parent is more than your child can handle, let your friend know that while you value the relationship, your child needs you now. Avoid the temptation to assign blame – in all likelihood you don’t know the full story anyway. Eventually your child will move on, and you can start spending time with your buddy again.
There are no easy answers here, and so much depends on the specific circumstances of each relationship. As in navigating any friendship, it’s important to know your priorities, communicate clearly, and treat people respectfully.
Have experience dealing with this? Share your tips, tricks, and anecdotes in the comments!