We all get to choose who we want to be friends with, and who we don’t want to be friends with. This means that at some point or another, your child will want to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends in return. This can be hard to come to terms with, but there’s really only one way around it: Back off, and find somewhere else to initiate a friendship wherein feelings will be reciprocated.
But what about that murky gray area where your kids have friends, but they feel like they are outsiders? When they feel like the third wheel?
And what happens when your children are the ones who are making others feel left out?
Groups of three are particularly difficult because someone always feels a bit like an outsider, so it's worth starting a conversation with your kids about how they show up in friendship triangles—whether they are on the inside or the outside.
The strategy for being on the inside is straightforward: If you value both friends, be sure to make time for both of them. Your children can have a single best friend, but they should be sure to acknowledge and make room for other friendships that they value.
And, if they are worried that they are being exclusive and cliquish, they can be straightforward and respectful by addressing it head-on. It might sound like this:
"I know I spend a lot of time with Caden. We've been best friends since I was three. You're super important to me, though, so if you feel left out, you are always invited to tell me. It's never my intention. And let's make sure we watch that movie together this weekend. You are by far my favorite person to watch movies with."
What happens when your child feels like they are the outsider? This can be a little more complicated.
If your child truly likes both of the other people in the friendship triangle, your child should celebrate and encourage the friendship by being supportive, acknowledging that the bond is tight, and refraining from partaking in anything that jeopardizes the friendship.
Of course your children should pursue individual friendships with whomever they want, but at the same time, they can practice being supportive of existing friendships.
Support sounds a little like this:
It can be hard for kids to stop jealousy from taking hold, so engage with them in conversations about how much better it is when the relationships feel good and supportive, and how they will be more likely to attract supportive friendships when they model being supportive.
The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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