Talking to your children about coping with the loss of friendships

Talking to your children about coping with the loss of friendships

Have your children experienced a friend cutting them off? No longer wanting to be friends? Being “un-friended” on Facebook? If so, you know how much this can leave kids feeling confused, angry and untrusting of their friendships.

When friends cut you off and won’t talk about it, it leaves you with a sense of loss you can never quite close. Losing a friend happens to everyone. However, with social media, it happens even more frequently. And the depth of hurt and loss is just as deep, perhaps deeper when you cannot talk face-to-face with the person about the unanswered whys. Consequently, it is vital for parents to talk to kids about how to navigate the loss of a friendship.


Do

Do understand why friends may decide to cut you off

Intense feelings of rejection, loss, pain and mistrust are common after a friend cuts you off. It is one thing if you know what upset them, and you can talk to them about the situation. At that point, even if they resist your apology or feelings you have a sense that they understand your side or reasoning.

This is much tougher when you live far away from your friend, and they won’t communicate with you. This means you have to try and imagine why they are upset, and in your own mind work through the reasons you may have upset them. Being upset is one thing, but when someone cuts off all communication, it usually involves conflicts within themselves that they are not ready to deal with.

Do evaluate your feelings

Part of moving on after a friend breaks up with you is evaluating your feelings for this friend. Although you may feel anger and hurt with their actions, it is extremely important for you to consider what sort of friend this really was. Asking yourself these four questions can help you feel more in control of the breakup:

  • Was this friend a good friend during times of crisis in my life?
  • Was this friend able to celebrate with me when good things happened to me?
  • Was this friend supportive of my successes?
  • Was this friend true to me -- or did he/she talk or betray me behind my back?

Do reflect on your past behavior

Look at your past behavior and try to understand if there is a pattern that may have offended your friend. This is essential in your personal growth and going forward. If you see you have a pattern of bragging or belittling comments, you should stop these prior to engaging in new friendships.

Do send a letter

Send a letter explaining your loss of friendship. You can send the letter via email or mail it the old fashioned way. This tells your friend that you loved him/her and that you regret the two of you are no longer able to share a friendship. Keep in mind that the old fashioned way is more heartfelt and considered more special to most people. However, either way is a wonderful way for you to express your feelings, so you can achieve closure on your end.


Don't

Do not allow this experience to destroy your child’s self-esteem

It is normal to feel hurt, rejected and confused after a friend breaks up with you. But continuing these feelings and allowing it to destroy your sense of self-esteem is not healthy for anybody.

Do not ruminate about it

Thinking about it over and over is not helpful. You have no way of knowing what junk other people carry around. Continuing to take their un-friending as a personal insult will only traumatize you more deeply.

Do not stalk your friend

Checking your friend’s Facebook, Twitter or texts keeps the loss in your mind. It actually feeds the feelings you are trying to let go of.

Do not discuss the experience with other mutual friends

These friends may betray you as well, and they may have an invested interest in keeping the two of you from being close. The issue is only between you and your friend. If he or she cuts you off or ends the friendship, it is likely this friend was conflicted in his/her feelings and didn’t know how to deal with it.

Time may help, and your friend may come to a point where he/she will reach out to you. If you distort the situation by confiding in others who are not trustworthy, your friend may hear rumors that will prevent him/her from ever reaching out to you again.


Summary
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Friends are friends because they support our decisions and stand behind us when we feel weak. A friendship is about sharing these times and being there for each other’s support. When this ends, it can feel devastating.

Good friends are invested in the friendship, and they are open to talking about disagreements or if they feel hurt. A friend who cuts you off is not a good friend because good friends don’t want to hurt you. They can tell you honestly when they feel jealous, hurt, insecure or angry with you.

Although it may break your child’s heart to lose what he or she thought was a good friend, it may be a parting gift. This person is showing your child that he or she was not as good of a friend as your child thought.


More expert advice about Improving Family Communication

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Mary Jo Rapini LPCLicensed Professional Counselor

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed certified intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist in private practice. Mary Jo serves as an intimacy/sex therapist for hospitals and clinics and evaluates patients for bariatric surgery in the Houston area. She wa...

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