Navigating friendship drama: Facebook Live

8 January 2020

Very often we find ourselves dealing with a friendship drama: someone’s hurt our child, they’ve fallen out with their best friend, they’re being manipulated ... and it can feel hard to know how to help them.

For one of her Facebook Lives for parents and carers, Rachel talked about how to coach our children spiritually through friendship dramas.

We have summarised Rachel’s main points below but you can watch the various episodes here:

For parents and carers of under 5s

For parents and carers of 5 – 11s

For parents and carers of preteens and teens

There is also a whole chapter in Parenting Children for a Life of Faith Omnibus covering this topic.

Rachel suggests there are three foundational points that we can work on with our kids – of whatever age – to help us coach them in friendship and dealing with friendship dramas.

1) Build foundations of what good or healthy friendship is.

By helping our children learn to recognise what good (or bad) friendship is, they can recognise what’s happening when things go wrong or when they have questions rather than just feeling the pain or not being sure what to do.

  1. Figure out what are the qualities of good friendship that you want your kids to know and recognise. For example, kindness, reliability, sharing, listening to a friend, not being manipulative, etc.
  2. Find ways to share these with your kids in a way that works for them. This will vary depending on your child and their age, but might include some of the following: praising those qualities when you spot them in your child and other children; drawing their attention to the friendships good and bad (TV or films are a great jumping off point to talk about friendship); when you are sharing Bible stories, you can talk about the friendships they depict and how people responded; you can create windows into your own friendships so they can learn from them; you can debrief bits of your own friendship mistakes and dilemmas to help your child see how real friendships work.

2) Empower your child in the real practicalities of friendship.

Childhood and young adulthood is a time when we are figuring out how we want to operate in the world and a lot of time kids live in the emotion of an experience and don’t know how to respond to it or have the skills to do it well. So they get trapped in the event and can feel powerless to change or control it, and then things can escalate to drama.

  1. With older children, talk about how friendships can be difficult, how people might try to manipulate you and you may need to say no, how making friends can feel hard, how there are things you can do to make friends, how friendships do sometimes end. Discuss the ways they might deal with that situation; what they might say, how they could apologise and put things right, whether they want to continue being a friend, what they might do. Also let them know that they will make mistakes in their friendships because we’re all learning how to be better friends.
  2. Use role play to help them think through scenarios – even with your teens. What would you do if I was a new child at school who was very shy? By discussing and practising how you could be a good friend to that child you are empowering your child to know what they might do when that happens in real life. You can do the same for any scenario your child might be facing: what would you do if there was a really pushy kid and they kept barging into your game? How do you deal with a friend betraying you? If a friend tries to manipulate you, how can you let them know that you don’t agree and what you do next. And praise them when they make great choices in their friendships, making sure you name what they did and why it was important.

3) Walk alongside them in their emotions.

Children and young people can feel the emotions of friendship drama very strongly: for example, when a favourite toy is snatched, someone hurts them, they discover someone’s talking about them behind their backs or they are feeling unsure in a crowd. We sometimes try to minimise the emotional experience (‘it doesn’t matter, there are lots of other toys there’, or ‘don’t worry about it, you didn’t get hurt’) and get to resolving the problem. But by listening to their pain and taking time to talk bout how they feel, you can coach them in what happened to them, help them process and understand their emotions and think through how they could manage that better next time rather than just reacting to how they feel. (Curious Questions can help with this.)

Questions Rachel answered in the Facebook Live for under 5s

  • What to do when they say ‘I don’t want to be friends with so-and-so’?
  • What to do when they say they don’t want any friends?
  • If a kid has processing issues and gets easily upset by others – how do you do this in a more simple way for them? (This was answered in the comments section)
  • How do you deal with the ‘you’re not my friend any more’ or a child putting a lot of pressure on other children saying ‘you’re my best friend’ and being sad that the other kid doesn’t agree.

Questions Rachel answered in the Facebook Live for primary age

  • What would you do if your child wants other children to play their game by their rules? (And the other children don’t want to.)
  • How do we encourage our children to befriend those who are unloving/hard to be friends with in a grace way whilst also protecting them from “toxic” friendships?
  • How do you deal with ‘she won’t let me play with anyone else’ issues or smothering friends make them miserable but they still like that friend?
  • How do you help primary kids (especially older ones) handle their friends operating with such different values than the ones you are raising them with. For example, a child who is teasing your kids for not having the right stuff (branded trainers, the right football kit) or not apologising when they are wrong or swearing.  (This was answered partly on the video and partly in the comments section).
  • How do I help my Christian 9 year old daughter when she tries to be Jesus like at school but then feels so hurt when her friends push her away for it (she was trying to include a girl who was left out but then she was pushed out herself for welcoming this girl in). Rachel answered this question in full in episode 52 of the Parenting for Faith podcast which you can listen to here. You may also be interested in How children express connection with God around their friends.

Questions Rachel answered in the Facebook Live for preteens and teens:

  • How do you help teens to not take on the emotional burdens/problems of their friends?
  • How do you help a teen stick to their (not our) principles when in difficult situations, parties etc, without being a ‘helicopter parent’?
  • My eldest daughter has recently started secondary school… I want her to grasp that her identity is in God. From her perspective, she feels her identity is pretty much in what she wears/owns/achieves… How do I help her to rebalance this, without completing alienating her from her peers (& making her realise that I’m on her side!)?   (Rachel answered this one in the comments) 

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Photo by Séan Gorman on Unsplash