My 7-year-old kid asked me why we no longer hung out with my friend of two years.
I said that we decided to go our separate ways and weren't friends anymore.
I used it as an opportunity to teach my kid about friendships and how they can come and go.
We were driving to the store on the same streets I'd driven on dozens of times when my 7-year-old kid chimed in from the back seat: "Hey! That's where our friend lives. Can we stop and say hi?"
I had two seconds to choose between the easy route ("I don't think she's home") and the real story: "I don't talk to her anymore, and we're going through a friend breakup."
As I pondered my options, I realized this was a teaching moment for my kid.
I decided to tell the truth
"Yes, that is where she lives," I told my kid. "We're actually not the type of friends we were before, not because anything bad happened but because we couldn't show up for one another the way each of us needed, and sometimes that happens."
I also said that I once loved my friend and I knew my kid loved her but that sometimes people end friendships.
We'd been friends for two years, and there was more to the story, of course, but it was enough to quell my kid's confusion and help open up a larger conversation. We discussed the realities of friendships and how not all of them are meant to last — regardless of our ages. We talked about how some friendships end and how that's OK.
The conversation helped my kid when she had her own friend problems
Six weeks later, my kid slunk into the back seat after school, cheeks red and shoulders slumped. I looked at her in the rearview mirror and offered a simple "What's up?" I wanted to give her the space to come around when she was ready.
They eventually shared with me that a friend she usually played with was mean to another kid who wanted to join in on their game during recess. "I don't want to be her friend if she's going to be mean to other kids," they said.
I told her that made sense and that it was fair. "Maybe you can check in with her tomorrow to see if there's something going on outside of school or recess that would make her act that way," I said. "Then you have more information before making a decision like that."
I used our earlier conversation to help guide them in their decision-making. "Remember when I stopped being friends with so-and-so? There were a lot of conversations leading up to that," I said. "It wasn't a decision I made based on one incident."
I hope to model good friendships for my kid
I grew up in a wildly dysfunctional environment and moved each year. By the time I graduated from high school, I'd attended 14 schools.
While I know it's normal for friends to come and go, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to create the consistency I didn't have as a child for my own kid. I want her to understand and cherish friendships. But I also want them to see me in friendships that are more like family — the friends who can lie across your couch while you make dinner.
But friendships are a spectrum, and I'm grateful I can teach my child this important life lesson.
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