The Problem: A good friend and I were so excited to have kids around the same age. We looked forward to playdates and family get-togethers, but our two youngest kids just don’t get along. It breaks my heart. I don’t want to lose my friend, so I suggested that we do grown-up-only things together for a while. She thinks we should just power through it. I don’t know what to do.
The Expert: Brittni Fudge, owner and therapist at Kindred Counseling, PLLC in the Central Park neighborhood.
The Solution: Whether you’re three or 33, personality differences and hurt feelings are hard to deal with. As one of the two adults in the situation, it’s your job to talk about it directly, set boundaries, and balance the needs of your child with your need for friendship. Do so by keeping the four B’s in mind:
Talk to your friend using I-statements to share how you feel and express what you want out of the friendship. For example, “I feel sad our kids aren’t getting along right now. I value our friendship and want to continue spending time together, whether we can help the kids settle their differences for family hangouts or whether you and I set aside some kid-free time to connect.”
Focus on the problem behaviors, not the character of your friend or their child. Instead of accusing your friend or their child by using character-defined labels, such as declaring them selfish or mean, stick to the behaviors. For example, “Johnny has Suzy’s ball and she wants a turn now. Let’s help them take turns.” This focus on behavior can help your friend hear this as an observation rather than as an attack, and therefore prevent hurt feelings.
Prioritizing your child’s social-emotional growth and your own social-emotional need for connection doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario. With these two goals in mind, focus on balancing compassion for everyone involved.
Establish boundaries with your friend by explaining what is and isn’t okay with you. For example, “It’s okay to try to power through this as long as the kids are able to either get along or tolerate each other politely. I’ll talk to Suzy about sharing and hope that helps. If they continue to fight, let’s have a few kid-free get-togethers where we can talk without interruption.”
With some time, and emotional growth of the kids, it may be possible to enjoy playdates in the future. Until then, continue to show interest in each other’s kids while still nurturing your own friendship.
—Edited by Courtney Drake-McDonough