Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Friendly Follies

“Mommy, do we have to go play with Mary today?” asks your daughter, and once again you feel a twinge of regret. You’ve made a commitment for a play date or group outing, and your children are less than enthusiastic.

As adults, we understand that friendships ebb and flow. We know that sometimes we might not enjoy every visit, but we grit our teeth and get through it. Kids don’t always see it that way.

Children are not always the kindest creatures. They play rough, they say whatever might cross their minds and they can be spiteful. We bring up our own kids to be as kind as possible, but we can’t protect them from every hurt.

But it can be a very delicate situation. How do you explain to another mother that your children don’t mix well—particularly if you and the other mom are friends?

There are a few options, but I’m afraid none of them are good ones. If you feel that you know the other mom well enough, you can tactfully approach the subject with her. It will take a great deal of delicate maneuvering to share with her that her child has been unkind or even that your kids’ personalities don’t mesh. If her son or daughter has put your child into a dangerous situation of any type, then you simply must be honest and tell her that while you enjoy the time spent together, you can’t subject your children to that kind of situation.

Another choice is to simply back away from the situation. You can gradually stop making dates and plans with that family, and pretty soon, they’ll get the message. Of course, that may cause more hurt in the long run, and it probably isn’t fair.

Then there are circumstances wherein your child has to grin and bear it. If the other child is an extended family member, for instance, you can’t write him off (although you can certainly minimize the amount of time your families spend together). And if the offending kid is a long-distance friend, it can be easier to console your offspring that this is only a “once in a while” problem and not worth causing upset to anyone.

My own children have experienced this. While we have taught them to be gracious hosts and to always acquiesce to the wishes of a visiting friend, those visitors often take advantage of this courtesy. We’ve also known the situations where the children just don’t get along. Sometimes we’ve gradually removed ourselves from the relationships, and other times, we have not been able to do so. We’ve found that talking about it with the kids is helpful; when they know that Mom and Dad have sympathy for their plight, they seem to be able to bear it a little better. We praise them for their continued kindness, even in the face of hurts and cruelty.

The important thing is that your children realize that you are on their side and that you recognize their distress. We’ve frequently had conversations where we discuss why little Mary is so difficult to get along with or why little Billy hits all the time. When we point out some possible reasons, the children tend to have more compassion and patience.

The easiest solution, of course, is to avoid developing these sorts of toxic friendships at all. Be cautious when making new friends; don’t jump into activities or regular dates until you’re more sure of how your children will get along. It’s far simpler to go slower and then commit than it is to pull back!

Hang in there. With some time, patience and understanding—and perhaps, if possible, a few well-spoken words—it’ll all work out, and you can spend your time with fun, relaxing pals!

Tawdra Kandle is stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four children who range in age from 9 years to 21 years. She and her husband of over 22 years live in central Florida, where he is in seminary. Tawdra spends most of her precious free time writing and reading, and she loves to travel. She is also a resident writer for Taking Time for Mommy. View more of her Articles HERE. You can also follow Tawdra on twitter and her blog, Publishing Quest

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Friendly Follies

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