When friendship turns sour

Like 'falling out' of Love, children can also 'fall out' of friendship. Here's how you can help your child deal with the pain of a broken friendship.

By Akshaya Ganesh

When friendship turns sour


Friends play an important role in the lives of children. They become an integral part of their lives not only by joining them in letting out whoops of joy, but also by lending a shoulder to cry on. But all is not well always, as was the case with Anamika and Ramya. They were best of friends, absolutely inseparable, sharing everything with each other. But something went wrong somewhere and their once strong bond of friendship began to weaken until they finally drifted apart.

How to spot a broken friendship?

Children change as they grow and along with it friendships do too. Any relationship passes through difficult phases; so is the case with friendship. It calls for maturity to wade through these phases. For, a broken friendship is very painful, often leaving behind scars.

Renowned psychologist, Carl Pickhardt, writes in his blog titled Surviving (your child’s) Adolescence, “Like most gifts in life, these relationships are double-edged, the hardest side becoming apparent when the friendship comes to an end, and at least one party is truly bereft on two counts. First, a good friendship proves not to be forever. And second, how will they ever find a good friend again?”

“A broken friendship can be a serious problem. If your child has a close friend, and if that bond breaks, it can lead to serious clinical issues like depression and social exclusion,” observes Bhuvanesware B G, Founder-Director, Let's Talk, a child, teen and parental counselling centre. 

Therefore, it is important for parents to identify the symptoms of a broken friendship. You can sense a problem if your child:

  • no longer talks to or hangs out with a particular friend
  • lacks appetite and shows disinterest in everything
  • suddenly becomes very reclusive and goes quiet
  • starts giving lame excuses to skip school
  • has her grades dropping

Helping your child deal with a broken friendship

Anamika and Ramya’s friendship revived, thanks to the efforts of their parents who helped them sort out their differences. If your child too is experiencing a broken friendship, here’s how you can help her through this difficult time:

Spend time with your child

When friendship is broken, it can be a traumatic experience. Spend as much time as possible with your child during this period and try to understand her feelings. It helps the hurt heal faster. “Children sometimes also exhibit behaviour that inflicts harm on themselves. Often children say things like, I will hurt myself if you don’t talk to me,”says Bhuvanesware. You can help your child get over such feelings by spending time with her.

Understand what really happened

Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your child about what happened. She may be too emotional to give you an unbiased picture. It may help to find out the other side of the story by talking to other friends of your child or teachers or other parents. But make sure you do not blame or point fingers at anyone. Knowing the whole story will help you guide your child - should you advise your child to make amends or is it best for your child to move on and make other friends? Let your child lead the way.

Help as needed

If the differences can be easily sorted out, encourage her to mend the bond. Make her understand that true friendship is too beautiful to be destroyed. “Parents should encourage their child to talk things out with the friend. This will help overcome guilt,” says Bhuvanesware.

But if you sense that the friendship is beyond repair, then it is best to help the child move on and make other friends. Bhuvanesware also cautions that parents should interfere only when necessary. She says,“I have seen parents interfere with the smallest of things relating to their child. In such cases, the child’s individuality gets affected, and peers start to refrain from opening up to the child, assuming that she may tell everything to her parents.”

Keep your child engaged

Don’t allow your child to sulk. Keep her busy with hobby classes, movies, etc. Do anything that will keep her mind off the past, lest she has an emotional breakdown. Encourage her to spend time with other friends.

Seek help

The reasons may be silly or serious, but a broken friendship is bound to hurt. If your child finds it hard to get over a broken friendship and remains depressed, get her help. Take her to a counsellor who is better equipped to deal with such issues.

Handle your friendships well

Your children are a reflection of yourself and they will deal with relationships just as you do. If you resort to breaking ties with your friend for no reason, your child will follow suit. Furthermore, he will cite you as an example, to defend his actions. Therefore, as a responsible parent, you need to set a good example in sustaining friendships.

Emphasise the importance of relationships

Encourage your child to cherish relationships. It is very important for your child to realise that while it takes years to build a friendship, a fallout can happen at the drop of a hat. Therefore, relationships should be nurtured with care. Bhuvanesware says, “By the time children enter pre-teens, they start to develop specific personality traits, and how they handle their friendship is a reflection of how they would handle all other relationships in life.”

Above all, remind your child that the memories of good friendships will help her savour life’s goodness as we see in Helen Keller’s words, “So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.”