Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ending Friendships

I never thought I would have to be "that mom."  I never thought I would have to step in and dictate who my child can be friends with.  But it's come to that.

Teagan has a little friend.  I'll call her Susie.  Susie and Teagan became friends in 1st grade.  They were in the same class and were also in the before/after care program together.

After a few months, things seemed... off.  Susie is a kid with some problems.  Lots of kids have problems but something about it didn't sit well with me.  But we forged on - she and Teagan were friends.

There were some issues in first grade but things seemed better over the summer - the girls were in day camp together.

2nd grade starts and my child's anxiety takes an uptick as the school year progresses.  They aren't in the same class but still see each other in the before/after care program and at recess and in an extracurricular activity.

Things get worse and worse.

As a mom, I try explaining to Teagan that it might be best not to be friends with Susie.  That friends are people you feel good around and who feel good when they're around you.  That isn't the case with her and Susie.

One of the complications is that Susie has made friends with Mary in her class and Susie and Mary will gang up on Teagan on the playground.

Teagan has ended up in a situation where she has dedicated herself to a relationship that leaves her feeling ugly inside which can lead to her being mean and bossy to other kids so she doesn't have close friendships outside of this girl at school.  Her friendship with this girl has ended up isolating her.

As a mom, I've tried encouraging her to connect with other kids.  We talk about kids in her class who are nice and who she enjoys.

After a lovely spring break... and a sick day on Monday...

Teagan started expressing serious anxiety about returning to school.  I think her middle of the night puking on Sunday may have even been related to her anxiety about it.

And after 1 day back and after several run ins with Susie and Mary... Teagan had an absolute meltdown last night.  Screaming, crying, raging, pounding.  All directed at me because I'm safe.

And I drew the line.

She is no longer allowed to be friends with Susie (and by extension, Mary).

She didn't fight me.  She didn't cry or tell me no.

The game plan at this point is a conversation with the head of the before/after care program, a letter to the teacher, an email to the teacher and guidance counselor, a call to the summer day camp so we don't end up in the same camps, a request that they not be in the same class next year.

The before/after care conversation happened this morning and we have their full support.  The head of the program was in complete agreement - and shared that she has also been working to encourage the girls not to spend time together.  Now that mom has laid down the rule, it can be enforced.

I don't know what else to do.  I hate to blame this little girl.  But she has some serious reasons to be angry at the world.  And this girl she's partnered up with has potential for full on bullying, too.

Teagan is one of the smallest kids her age in all her social circles.  All she has to defend herself is her wit, her attitude, and her meanness.  If she's been feeling like she's under attack, tense about this relationship all the time... no wonder she finds it easier to be mean than kind when she's at school.  It's her defense system.

I think I'm doing the right thing.  I posted about it in my mom group and got a lot of support and ideas.  But it's hard.  It's hard to interfere and decide for my daughter that she can't be friends with someone.

My hope is that the lesson she learns from it now will help her to determine how to break off toxic relationships in the future.  My hope is that the actions we take now will help us get through the end of the school year and through the summer.  My hope is I don't have to get even more drastic in my options to keep them separated.

But she's worth it.  Because she's an amazing kid and she's worth anything it takes to keep her safe and happy.



Rebecca said...

Not too sure what the reasons the little girl has to be mad at the world but I have story to tell.

A little girl from Isabella's class last year........*shakes head*

Her mom is living with her dad. Her mom has a boyfriend that EVERYONE knows about (probably even dad). Dad is on bipolar medication and schizophrenia meds.

Older brother and sister are ALWAYS in trouble with the law (they are in high school). Younger sister (who is 3) always pulls out her hair on one side of her head so she has a bald spot.

The girl who is my daughters age came over for a playdate and she lowered her shirt and shook her 'boobies' but lets get real, she still a little girl but the fact she lowered her shirt and said 'shake my...' over and over again until I stopped her was upsetting.

The girl also laid on the floor in a weird position face up and then started .......I don't know what to call it.......looked like she was having imaginary 's....e....'you know what! x.....

Anyway, I'm so thankful she's not in Isabella's class this year but my heart breaks for the whole family and all I can do is just pray things get better for everyone.

C. Beth said...

This is so good. As a 35-year-old, I'm just now really learning to CHOOSE my friends wisely. If she can start learning that as a 7-(8?-)year-old, that is awesome. Good guidance, Mama.

Liz's Mom said...

Rebecca, I hope you reported your observations to the local police department and the school.

Karen Peterson said...

I think the fact that Teagan didn't even argue with you over it is proof you did the right thing.

Alison said...

Yup. There's no instruction manual, but you have good instincts.

Cris Goode said...

Good for you. Navigating these things is never easy, but sometimes kiddos need help to be able to walk away from those kinds of situations.

rebeca @ the average parent said...

I think it's awesome that you're teaching her the value of good friendships and that it's OK to walk away from bad ones. School (and life) is so difficult and it's hard to find your self worth. Good for you for pointing out that she's better than that. If she hears that enough, she'll start to believe it.

Michelle@Gotchababy said...

It's so important to teach kids about what friends really do and don't do, and how to have healthy friendships. They won't know unless you teach them. Good job, mom!

Ann-Marie said...

That's a tough situation and you handled it well. My oldest daughter is in 3rd grade and (knock on wood) we haven't faced troubles like this yet, but all we can do is be supportive of our children and provide a united front. It speaks volumes that she didn't argue with your decision to end the relationships.

Crystal said...

Good for you! You are definitely doing the right thing. We have a similar issue with a little boy at preschool - he's 4 years old and inviting my son over to play violent video games and watch Family Guy! When my son was invited over for a play date, I had to politely refuse.

Garret Atherton said...

Teagan is too adorable to get bullied!

Momza said...

yup. been there, done that. Never regretted watching out for my yahoos. Not ever. Trust your instincts. Always. Teagan will find someone else who knows how to be a friend...for right now, she has You.