Single Mom Alert: What to Do When You Can’t Stand Your Child’s BFF
By Jessica Pegis
It starts with a name. So-and-so is this. And so-and-so does that. Your child wants to hang around so-and-so all the time. They play at school. They may walk home together. They talk the evening away by phone or instant-messaging.
So-and-so is the topic of conversation at dinner and the measure of all things good.
Pretty soon you want to meet so-and-so, and you do. Maybe by accident–on the school playground or on the street.
And it strikes you. Your uncensored reaction is that you can’t stand this kid.
You stop yourself right away, of course, because human company that makes your child happy makes you happy too.
Only your unease doesn’t dissipate. Several weeks later, your child wants a play date with so-and-so at your house. What do you do?
First, don’t beat yourself up. This problem is not uncommon and you are not horrible for having these feelings. Moreover, not liking the friend your child has chosen to be “the one” doesn’t mean that you must choose between being the heavy and giving into your child. There may be some comforting gray area in between.
Here are some tips and ideas.
Take a breath. Before you say or do anything, take some space to figure out what it is about this child that you don’t like. Sometimes kids just get off to a bad start. They glare, they don’t hold a gaze, they refuse to address you by name. But these behaviors may be unconscious and not intentionally negative. (Some cultures, after all, consider it rude to stare directly at someone.)
Engage the child in conversation. There’s nothing like talking to break the ice. When you see the BFF, drop your guard and just talk. Smile and be open and welcoming. What music or school subjects does she like? What does he love to do in his spare time? Keep talking and see where it leads. Get to know the parents too.
Let the kids interact outside the home. Consider inviting the BFF to a specific activity outside your home, such as a movie, bowling, or indoor playground. If your kids are young and energetic, they’ll blow off some steam and you can watch them together. Also, in each of these venues there are rules to follow—that means you don’t always have to be the enforcer. Hint: An off-site play date is also easier on your home.
Set limits with your child. If the friend is badly behaved—rude and destructive—have a conversation with your own child about the friend and your family values. “I’d like to have your friend over but swearing and walking on the furniture are not allowed in our house. Would you like to speak to your friend about our rules or should I?” This sends the message to your child that he or she has a choice but that there are standards you will uphold. Hold your ground.
Think about why your child has this friend. Perhaps the most interesting question of all. What does your child get out of this friendship? Think back to your own childhood and the friends your parents didn’t approve of. What was turning your crank? Be honest and apply your knowledge to your child’s situation. Does your child crave more adventure, more rapport. . .somebody to boss around? Do the child’s parents allow him or her to do something you don’t? What might your child need that you can provide in other ways?
Spot bad influences. At some point, you may notice that a child’s bad behaviors are rubbing off on your child. It may be something as insignificant as hair or as awful as hate. Pick your battles. Hair doesn’t matter—crime, addiction, and 10-year-old sex do. Intervene and obtain counseling if you suspect these issues.
Remember: friendships may not be forever. Whatever you feel about your child’s friends, know that he or she will make a lot of friends before you’re done. You’ll fall in love with some of them. And you won’t like some of them quite so much. But as long as your child continues to grow and connect with different people, you will have done your job.
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