The social landscape of a young person’s world is a very delicate and complicated thing. Many parents, although they were once young themselves, seem to forget over the years how very emotionally invested young people are in their social connections. Their friends are their entire world. So when these relationships are not working well a young person can feel as if their entire world is falling apart. The cry of “my friends hate me!” or, “My best friend hates me!”can begin to grind on a parents nerves. Sometimes the situation is turned around and you will find that your child is dissatisfied with their friends and complains, “I hate my best friend,” or “I hate my boyfriends friends.” All of these situations require sensitivity. Understanding the correct response to this feeling of angst is crucial to a young person’s emotional stability and maturity.
A parent, who has already spend many decades learning the importance of self-sufficiency and the lack of reliability on fickle friendships, may find it baffling that their child is so emotionally dependent on their friends. It is important for parents to understand or to at least attempt to remember the feelings of insecurity that came with young adolescence, and how an understanding friend or group of friends could suddenly help you feel grounded in a confusing world. Young people are going through so many changes during puberty, and the predominate emotion throughout everything is confusion. Friends become vitally important because they, unlike parents, are all going through the same thing. This gives a since of comradery and companionship that the parents simply cannot provide. Friends are also important because they, also unlike parents, will like the same cultural things. Music, games, books, movies are all common ground for certain age groups. These types of cultural media are created to appeal to age groups. This is why most young people do not share the same interests with their parents.
Friends are also, often less judgmental than parents. While young people are trying to explore new horizons of their own personalities, sexuality, education, and career aspirations friends provide a safe sounding board for ideas which parents might shoot down immediately.
Despite the vital importance that these relationships obviously provide for young people, they are not immune to difficulties and even break down. There can be many causes for the breakdown of these relationships, and when they break down a young person, who had felt confused and alone before, may now feel utterly abandoned.
One of the classic reasons for friendships to go astray is bickering. Young people have not yet mastered their own emotional intelligence and in most cases will not know the best ways to handle disagreements or feelings of exclusion or jealousy among their friends. Young people may begin to react to the situation with behaviors that feel comfortable and familiar such as pouting, fighting, or with holding attention or affection. These behaviors feel normal and comfortable because not too many years ago this was how they handled all of their problems. Do not forget that a twelve year old was an eight year old only four years ago. Parents should not be too shocked when, under stress, their child suddenly reverts back to very immature tactics. In their new social environments, however, the tactics of childhood can have more far reaching consequences. Eight year olds are much more forgiving than twelve year olds. A child may lash out at a friend, thinking they will simply make up tomorrow, only to find out they have damaged the friendship beyond repair. An incident like this will leave a young person asking, “Why do my friends hate me?”
What Can Parents Do?
Although your child may be in a period in their life when they do not necessarily seek out your counsel and advice much, it is important when you see a friendship struggling to encourage your child to deal with the issues at hand in a mature way. You should warn your child that immature reactions could have permanent consequences. Young people need to understand how to weigh out the importance of the relationship and then balance their reactions to situations in such a way not to completely sacrifice the relationship just because their feelings are hurt.
It is also important to note here that, if a friendship has turned abusive in some way, such as one friend bullying another, that a young person also know how to handle that situation as well. Some friendships need to end. Parents should understand, however, that even losing a bad friendship is painful.
Parents should know that disregarding your child’s feelings of pain, misunderstanding or sadness is a very dangerous practice. When a child feels as if they can not openly share their feelings at home with their family, they are at risk of turning to other forms of comfort. This can sometimes come in the form of drugs, alcohol or dangerous relationships. The best way for a parent to react to their child’s sadness over a friendship in trouble is with compassion. The “Golden Rule” applies to your kids as well. How would you want to be treated if an important relationship in your life were in jeopardy? This is how you should treat your child.
Talk to your child and attempt to understand the course of events which led up to the rift in the friendship. You might be able to see a detail that your child did not notice that could be crucial to restoring the friendship. It is important to not interfere too much in your child’s social world. He does not need you to “fix” his problems for him, but giving him or her tools and resources or advice on how to best handle the situation is your parental responsibility.
If your child seems very resistant to your involvement at all, give them the space they need to process their feelings for as long as they need. Your child may not show it now, but they will appreciate your understanding in the long run.
When to Get Involved
There are some situations in which a parent should get involved when they hear their child complain of “my friends hate me!” If you child has become entangled in an abusive friendship. Young people will sometimes, in their efforts to find acceptance and companionship will allow themselves to be bullied by “friends” thinking that they are part of a real friendship. This is why it is important for parents to find out exactly what the problem is behind your child’s complaints. If you child has become engaged in an abusive friendship or an abusive friendship it is a parents obligation to help their child get out of that situation as quickly as possible to ensure your child is safe.