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December 13, 2022

Ask Lisa Podcast - Episode 98

My Friends’ Kids Are Excluding my Kid. What Should I Do?

Episode 98

Having friendships with families where the kids and adults love hanging out can be wonderful. But what happens when the kids’ relationships sour or they drift in different directions? Dr. Lisa helps parents navigate the tricky conversations they may need to have with their friends. What should parents do when they know that their kid is being excluded? Dr. Lisa and Reena discuss how to start a conversation with the adults who are involved without making the whole situation worse.

December 13, 2022 | 34 min

Transcript | My Friends’ Kids Are Excluding my Kid. What Should I Do?

Ask Lisa Podcast, Ep. 98: My Friends’ Kids Are Excluding my Kid. What Should I Do?

The Ask Lisa Podcast does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

The following transcript has been automatically generated by an AI system and should be used for informational purposes only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information provided.

——

Reena Ninan
You said something a while ago that kind of caught my attention. I wonder if there’s something more there that you choose not to be friends with your kids? Friends, parents? So do you just have like, Why do you have that rule? You just don’t believe that best friends of your kids should interact, like should be close with the other family. But apparently,

Lisa Damour
It’s one of those things like mostly Reena, being a psychologist is probably not very good for parenting. Right? Like mostly, it’s probably better not to have a parent who’s a psychologist, I don’t know. But occasionally I think so. But occasionally, there are things where I’m like, Oh, I have seen how this goes down. Or I have seen how this can go wrong. And with that foresight, often, you know, drawn out of my own clinical practice or whatever, I’ve been able to make certain choices. So like, for example, we never let our kids tick tock tick tock, sorry, take technology in their rooms, you know, from the gecko. I only knew that because of my work like I you know, a lot of families, you know, only discover that in retrospect. And so this was one where I had seen it happen enough that the parents become friends with the kids, parents, or their friends. The parents have their own kids friends. And then the kids have a falling out or have a problem. And then it gets really awkward. So I was like, I’m just staying clear that

Reena Ninan
that makes total sense. We can explain it. And interesting, we got a letter kind of alluding to this similar problem. So I want to address this and get your take on it says, I have a question that has not been addressed. And it’s something that I struggle with? How do you navigate being friends with the parents at your kids school, when your kids are also in the same grade? And what do you do when the kids have these parents do things that are not nice? Or they slight or exclude your kid from activities? How do you separate the two? Or can you? How do you not let the kids stuff start interfering with the parents relationships? Wow, okay. First off, when I was growing up, that the school, the public school, and before, it was just so big, that I felt like my parents had a separate, you know, my parents from India, like a totally separate social circle. So this was never an issue in the 80s and 90s.

Lisa Damour
It true to my parents, I don’t even think they knew the parents of the kids. I hung out with him, you know, they sort of had a vague recognition may have like, nodded to them in the grocery store. But I feel like this is something that’s very generational. Like, I think that this, we’re now into a generation where this is much more common. I will also say just in defense of becoming friends with the parents of your kids, friends. This especially is easy to do when your kids are young, because I don’t know if this is your experience or not. But I found a lot of raising little kids to be fairly boring,

Reena Ninan
like this, you do. And nobody says it’s publicly. So I’m glad you did.

Lisa Damour
And so I actually in truth, I did have people where we would hang out together because you have a three or four year old, you know, or two year old and you become friends with them because you can then have a human being to speak to right in the long hours of hanging out with 2345 year olds. And so this is one of those things where I don’t want people to feel like I think it’s bizarre or somehow inexplicable, that you could end up being quite close with somebody because of your kids. You know, they go to school together a preschool together. Like it’s very easy to fall into this, but then comes to the fact that the kids start to have their own opinions about this, or kids don’t always get along over time or so natural to development, Reena, you know, by fifth or sixth grade kids really change who they’re friends with. Yeah, often, you know that they just

Reena Ninan
do. Yeah. And I even find younger and elementary, they have very strong opinions of the kids they like and don’t like the kids, it was been time with the kids, they don’t want to, which I think is healthy and good. Like, they know what they like, and but you’re right when they’re younger, I think that you’re automatically friends with people who have kids the same age because let’s face it, they’re not you can’t always take kids at that age everywhere. And when you have parents who have kids the same age, they kind of understand and get it.

Lisa Damour
Absolutely. And I think about like the long hours I spent with dear friends you know, where you’re just keeping your two and three year old safely you guys just just not only one cup of coffee after another right? And like, that’s how that’s for me how I could enjoy parenting. Most like, whether you know, true confessions, that’s what it was about. Okay, so now into the flutter. Okay, so the sticks, right? These are the letter writers friends whose kids are excluding her kid. And the letter writer doesn’t know what to do with this information or how they how to respond appropriately. Okay. So where do you want to start with us?

Reena Ninan
Well, I’m just curious, explained to me I get it like parents or friends. But how does this really manifest in real life? Particularly the adolescent years girls versus boys like weird you in your clinical practice? And where have you seen this like the trickiest? And

Lisa Damour
Abby? Yeah. Yeah. Okay, well, so here’s what it looks like, in real life. This is where social media just does not help us once again, you know, so Well, it looks like is okay. So say it’s a, I’m going to just make this up a friend group of four moms, right. And so they each have a daughter, and say, those four daughters have enjoyed one another’s company, third, fourth, fifth grade, let’s just sort of say like, that’s a very plausible, you know, scenario. And then let’s say that comes sixth grade, three of those girls are getting together for sleepovers, or whatever. And they’re making tic TOCs. And they’re posting stuff and they’re hanging out where the fourth child through the magic of social media can see it all and see that, you know, the four has become a three, and she is the left out kid. So like, this is the kind of scenario you hear about all the time. And so that’s how it would happen. And, you know, obviously, this could happen so easily. And it’s very easy to picture this happening. So now the kid and the letter writer, let’s say, in this scenario, are very well aware of who’s not at that party.

Reena Ninan
I totally lucked out, and it feels like absolute crap, because now they see everyone’s hanging out. They’re not included.

Lisa Damour
But now do you actually let me stop you there Reena. Okay. Feels like crap for who? Like that

Reena Ninan
for your kid. Right? And wow,

Lisa Damour
relative writer doesn’t say that. So we have to ask that question. So the letter writer, the kid may come and be like, check it out, Mom, you know, girls, one, two, and three are all making tic TOCs over a girl to his house without me and shows the parent. But I think the first question we have to ask is, how does the kid feel about this? Because in the letter that didn’t come up. And so I think as much as the parent might be like, Oh, this is awful. Like, how could you not be included? And how could the parent who’s hosting not have invited you? Yeah, I think the first question we have to ask is, you know, to the kid who’s not included? How do you feel about the fact that that’s happening? Or how are you okay, with not being included?

Reena Ninan
Oh, my gosh, I have such a visceral reaction, maybe because having we’ve all have that feeling of being left out. We know what that feels like, especially in those years. But you’re saying don’t just assume like, maybe they’re okay with it.

Lisa Damour
They might be right. They might be and you just don’t know. And I think the thing that is so true, about let’s assume it’s like that kind of fifth sixth seventh grade swamp activity, right, like Spark swamp of social activity. There are so many variables, so many dynamics, so many currents running through that, that are totally opaque to adults. Like we have to really honor that. That there’s a lot we don’t get and there’s a lot we don’t don’t understand. But we do need to leave open the possibility that the kid for in the scenario as I’m calling her, might be like, I’m really glad not to be there. Like get they get up to stuff I don’t want to be part of or we’ve started to go our separate ways at school. It’s totally cool. I don’t mind that I’m not there. Like, we need to create room for that possibility, because then it still leaves the question of what is the parent gonna do with their own feelings about that. But you’ve taken the kid out of it because it gets like, it’s okay. It’s okay. Or it’s a relief, or it bugs me, but not that much, right? I mean, we want to make room for all of those possibilities.

Reena Ninan
I never thought that would be an option. So we’re How do you think for the parent? Who has their child excluded? You’re saying, okay, don’t just assume that this is a horrible thing. Maybe it’s a way for them to peel away from the group or something. But let’s say it’s not, let’s say they really feel hurt and excluded. Like so. What do you do that?

Lisa Damour
Okay, so actually, let’s go back and play it out if the kids okay, because apparently still feel like they’ve got a problem. So is it kids like, Yeah, whatever. I don’t need to be there. Then the parents like, Okay, what should I do with this? If my kids okay with it? Do I need to be okay with it? Right? should at least my kid have been invited? Right? Like, that’s a question that might be worth asking. And I think a parent could feel like, you know, it will be okay. But it’s sort of where they won’t even ask like, I could see that that could be something that sort of lingers on bothers. But what I would say Amina is if the kid is okay with it, and this is a great universal rule in all of kids socialized is the kids okay with it, the parent probably has to be okay with it. Right? Like, we really need to follow their lead, we don’t understand all the dynamics. You know, it really, it really should be the most important thing is how the kid feels. And then the parent has to decide how much do I care about these adult friendships? Does my connection to this group of parents hinge on my kids inclusion? Or do I like them separately enough? Can I just leave this entirely to the side? I think that that’s something then the adult needs to work out on their own time. But if the kids okay with it, I don’t know that it’s worth making a thing of it with the out of parents. Yeah. So but that’s only if it gets okay with it.

Reena Ninan
So I, I you tell me if I’m wrong with this. But I would assume more than not when your kid finds out they were excluded from something that everyone else went to they probably don’t feel good about it. Even though you’re saying to us don’t assume that this is a bad thing, necessarily talk to them. Ask them how they feel. But what do you do? If your child really does feel bad that they’re excluded? And you’re friends with the parents?

Lisa Damour
Yeah, right. Okay, so let’s assume and I agree with you, more likely they’re going to be like, Whoa, ouch. You know, like, yeah, you know, and especially if they’re showing it to the parent, there’s probably a reason that they’re showing it to the parent. And so then I think step number one is coach your kid at home, like talk about it at home, keep it in the house, right? So I think the parent might say, wow, like, that’s kind of weird. Yeah, I can see why you’re upset. Like, what’s going on? Like, yeah, what do you make of that? Right? Yeah, really see if you can’t be curious with your kid about how they understand why they weren’t invited. Also, and this is, I think, one of the hardest things to do and all of parenting, be open to the possibility that your kid may have done something that is tricky for those other kids maybe wasn’t nice, or, you know, talk badly about them to other people. And so the kids were like, we’re not inviting you. You’re trashing us all over the sixth grade, you know, so gently, gently say, like, what do you think happened here? We’re looking back on, you know, your interactions with them. Is there anything you think that, you know, you might have done on, you know, purposely or not, that could account for this? So I think, you know, have that conversation, which of course, Reena like, any parent in the scenario is probably like spraining a muscle not to pick up the phone and call that other weekly freight. Right, these are my friends. Why aren’t you there? Right. So we’re asking right a lot, which is just to say like, you know, slow We’re all try to talk it through with your kids see what your kid can do with it. And then if your kids like, I have no idea why I’m not included, like, this feels super weird. I don’t get it. I think then the next question is to say to your kid, do you want to try to talk with those girls about why you’re not there? Like, do you want to raise it in a really respectful, but also assertive way to see if you can get to the bottom of it?

Reena Ninan
I feel like I think never do that. At that age. They’re so scared. They, you know, it’s just it’s a lot of pressure. It’s hard for adults to even do that. Right? Well, you see kids really doing that.

Lisa Damour
Well, okay, that is the magic question. Right? Okay. So let’s say the kids like, ah, oh, right. Like, I mean, like, let’s be honest, like, of course, I’m not gonna say anything. I’m just gonna just gonna be weird if I say something. But I think it’s still worth it for the parent to say, Okay, Bill, let me just spit ball, which you might say, like, let me lay out some language for you just to like, think about a little bit. So the parent might say, you know, what, if you did say, and maybe not to all three of them at once, maybe you go find, you know, the kid that you trust the most or the closest with and say, look, hey, you know, you guys are posting stuff on Tik Tok. And, you know, obviously, you’re free to get together without me, like, obviously, you’re not obliged to invite me, but is there anything I should know? Have I done something or said something, or somehow hurt you? In a way that made you feel like you didn’t want me there? Right? And sometimes, like, a kid might be like, no, no, no, no. And then they hear the language and they’re like, Oh, that’s not completely off the wall. Or I could, I could try that. Or I could try my, you know, sixth grade version of that. But it’s worth it. Even as a kid like, I will never do that, right. And most kids are gonna be like, I will never do that. Reena, there’s still value in the parent playing that all the way out for the kid to hear how a person might respectfully assert themselves in that interaction.

Reena Ninan
So where have you seen this? Like, in real life work? Like, what what what do kids say at that age? That could get them to kind of confront them, but also have the courage to do it. Like, is their saying is your slogan like, how do we get into this? Because I just don’t see my kids ever doing something like that, being able to do that, right at that age.

Lisa Damour
Exactly. And like, the language I use sounds like the 52 year old woman that I it’s not like sixth grade language. You know, and I think that when we give kids scripts, it’s, I always say to them, like, here’s how I would say it as a middle aged lady, like, you will figure out your version of this. And here’s what I will say me to in terms of like how this really ever plays out in real life. I think about this a little bit like football. Okay, so here’s my weird metaphor for this. So you know how in football, like, you don’t get a touchdown, on every play, you just gain yards. And the scoreboard does not change at all. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t made some progress. And, you know, you may lose possession and regain possession and to get some more yards. So for me, every one of those conversations with a kid when you’re like, Well, you could say this, or what if you try that? And the kids like, yeah, not never gonna happen, right? Like, to me, you may actually beginning yards, but the scoreboard hasn’t changed. You may need to have that conversation, literally 10 times over three years. And then suddenly, three years later, the kid says to the other kids, you guys like how come I wasn’t invited? Like, you don’t have to invite me but like how come? Okay, Touchdown, touchdown, and you are gaining yards, all those years, you are gaining yards. And, and I think that that’s a part where in so much of parenting, we can’t despair if we’re like a coach the kid and then they went back on the field and nothing happened. To be like, I coached the kid they went back on the field, they gained two yards, they lost possession. That’s how we have to think about it. That’s how we have to think of that is

Reena Ninan
really good. Even though they might not be, you know, dancing in the endzone with a touchdown that gaining those yards by making these small steps can actually add up to a significant moment down the road,

Lisa Damour
down the road. Like they’re thinking about it. They’re thinking, right, right. So maybe could

Reena Ninan
it be as simple as them just saying so you guys all hung out it just as a way to be like I saw you like, I know you guys were all there. And maybe that’s just the opening.

Lisa Damour
Maybe that’s the opening immediately cute is sort of saying like, you’re just gonna hang out but like, you don’t have to stick my face at it. Right? I mean, like there’s all there are also things in here that could be done more graciously than the scenario I imagined. But again, it’s like getting into that idea of like, we work through the kid we think with the kid we coach the kid, we’re patient with the kid. We don’t assume that are upset and they’re upset or the same level of upset we work really with their experience of it. Okay, but we got to think this all the way through though, Reena. So to say that the kids like, I will take it under advisement. I hear I hear your coaching. Yeah, I, you know, I’m gonna think about it. I think then, you know, of course, a parent in this scenario would be tempted to pick up the phone, right and call the other parents especially say the host. Who knew? That was?

Reena Ninan
My next question to you is, you know, if you’re a parent, at what point because obviously that’s gonna, you’re gonna feel bad that your kid was left out? At what point? Do you take action and contact the other parent? Who is your friend?

Lisa Damour
This is tough, right? So one question I would have is, where does your kid stand on that, which

Reena Ninan
just felt left out? Like it’s really hurting the kid and they’re upset. So what? How do you have that conversation with your friend, right?

Lisa Damour
Also, at the moment, I think you might want to ask your kid is do you want me to talk to you know, number two’s mom, right? Like, do you know that the party was over at Number Two’s house? Like, do you want me to reach out to Number Two’s mom and see what the story is?

Reena Ninan
And what if it’s a No, don’t? Yeah, and

Lisa Damour
some kids might be like, Are you kidding me like that I will never be able to show my face. Again, right? That’s something to take very seriously. Right? affecting your friendship,

Reena Ninan
it’s affecting your friendship with this person, this other adult is so like, you want to clear the air for yourself. But if the kid is telling you don’t, what do you do that?

Lisa Damour
That’s so hard, right? I mean, I would say that’s probably the hardest version of all of this is if your kids like I’m in pain, and I do not want you to say anything. I think the parent has to think really long and hard about what they should do. The thing I would bring into this is, at some level, the adults have a lot more freedom about who they hang out with. And the kids do. Like the kids all have to go to school together. Cuz they are gonna be lab partners, they are gonna be you know, group project partners. And if your kid is like to make sixth grade possible, it makes a huge difference to me, if you don’t call so and so’s mom. I think we take that pretty seriously. Because it’s not like we are like, required to hang out with so and so’s mom, right? And going to be assigned to a group project with so and so’s mom. We don’t really have to repair it, we might want to, but we have other friends and other options for friends. And so one thing is just to be I mean, I’m not saying this was a great resolution, it’s really not a resolution. But I think that’s something we want to think through. But what if it gets like, I don’t care? Call her I don’t care, whatever. Right? I mean, that’s, I think another really interesting thing. What? Yeah, what are you

Reena Ninan
I’m just trying to think of like, what’s the most realistic scenario, and I think, if I were that kid, I would not want you to reach out to the other parent, I know, you’re friends with the other parent, don’t bring it up. But it’s complicating my route, like maybe I’m out playing tennis or we’re both in a gardening club together, or, you know, we’re going to where we work together. You know, there are so many situations where you’re going to cross paths. And it’s Nying at me, and I’m one of these people, when something bothers me, I have to deal with it. I can’t just put it aside, I’ve got to do. So how can I do this in a way that doesn’t screw everything up?

Lisa Damour
Yeah. Okay, so let’s say maybe you’re not going to ask the kid for permission, right? Maybe you really need to sort this out. And you describe scenarios where that could happen. Like, it’s the neighbor, or you guys play tennis together. Or, you know, it happens all the time Reena, where it’s siblings, whose kids are friends, and they’re not friends, right? Like, it’s like a point your own sister, right? And then suddenly, things are getting weird. And like, You got to talk to your sister, like, you gotta, you know, you gotta try to sort it out. So then I think what we would want to do is to be to give it every possibility of going well, right? Is I think, how we want to approach it. So what I wonder if if this parent does call another parent about the scenario, you know, make it as likely as possible that the other parent will handle it well. And to do that, I think it would involve saying something like, Hi, this is a little awkward, and I hope you don’t mind me reaching out about it. But we were home on, you know, Saturday night, and I saw that you had the other two girls over. And it felt really weird for my kid. And I just wanted to check in to see if there’s something we should know if there’s something I should know. Like, I just wanted to get your take on it. Right? Like, assume you don’t have all the information because you probably don’t have all of the information. Because that parent could very well say back, your kid has been talking bad about right, my daughter like, right, you have no idea what you don’t know. That’s a great point. So we go gentle into this

Reena Ninan
go gentle. You always give us great phrasing and like what is something roughly? I could say to that friend of mine, where my child is now excluded, that won’t put her on the defensive, it might open the door to help you understand a little bit more about the situation that you might not know.

Lisa Damour
Well, actually, I think you’ve got it right there, which is to say, you could say, now I understand I am working only with my kids take on this. And I understand that my kids take is incomplete. But here’s what happened the other night, right? And I just wanted to run it by you, because I really value our friendship, I really love your daughter, right. And I just want to like, you know, see if there’s more I should know, I just want to think it through with you. But you know, again, like sort of appealing to this idea of, we have only a sliver of information. We don’t really know the whole story. When we appeal to people as wanting to understand this with us. And being good hearted, we tend to bring that out in them. I think that that’s really the way to go at it. Because here’s the thing, you cannot determine outcomes here, you can’t make those kids take your kid back, like you just cannot do it. What you can determine is the process by which this gets resolved, right? Like, and it can be a good process or a bad process. And so like, even if the other parent says, Okay, here’s the deal, actually, your kid was trashing my kid and those other two girls, and they didn’t want to invite her and I didn’t feel like I could make them. You can be like, Okay, I am really glad you let me know. And I’m, you know, I appreciate you being honest with me. I mean, like you could do all sorts of things that will leave open the possibility of maintaining that friendship with leave open the possibility of doing good coaching with your kid. But if you go in guns blazing, assuming you know the whole story, you’re probably going to shut a good process down.

Reena Ninan
Oh, that’s good to keep in mind, because I would go I would be the one going in guns blazing, because nobody likes their kids hurt, right or feeling left out

Lisa Damour
of it know exactly right. Like it that is the thing that is that is the thing that like, as a parent, we are not designed to be impassive, if our kid is being hurt, right, we are designed to become protective, that Mama Bear instinct of my horses is gonna come to the fore. And what we have to remember is, everybody’s got that instinct, or should have that instinct. So if you go attacking somebody else’s kid, you know what you’re gonna get their mama bear. So you got to be really careful about how you go about this.

Reena Ninan
You know, so before we wrap it up, just curious. There are so many scenarios where, you know, it could be your your kids are friends with their cousins, and suddenly they have a falling out, or there’s reasons why your families are like, really closely intertwined. What are things if you are friends, with your kids, friends, parents? What are some sort of basic ground rules that you think should always be you should keep in mind that will help when this type of situation happens? Because it’s very often, you know, kids go through so many things in adolescence that there could be this moment of tension?

Lisa Damour
Absolutely. It’s a great question. Right? And and when it works, it’s wonderful, right? I mean, there are families who go on vacation with their dear friends, right? Kids have a blast, and it’s fantastic. So there’s a lot of reasons why, you know, we might, as adults lean into this, I really think you just want to go in eyes wide open, like you just don’t want to be naive, and assume that kids aren’t going to end up, you know, either growing in different directions, or having an issue with each other that is very real and understandable. And so I think, you know, yeah, absolutely. If it works for you to be friends with your kids, friends, parents, that’s fine. But, you know, be open to the possibility that the vacation you schedule six months from now may not work as well, six months from now as it would today. And schedule vacations if you’re going to do it, knowing that and planning for that possibility.

Reena Ninan
Well, I never thought about this. And as you enter adolescence, and things change, and kids have opinions, why do they have opinions? Why do they grow up and have opinions?

Lisa Damour
Oh, it’s so much easier when they’re a little sometimes.

Reena Ninan
Give them a snack and then work towards a special treat. And they’re fine. Those days are over for some Yes. Yeah. Well, thank you, Lisa. What do you have for us for parenting to go

Lisa Damour
for parenting to go, I want to underscore something from this episode, which is we don’t know very much about the complexities of kids social lives, even when we think we do. And when I picked her like a seventh grade lunch room, for me the activity in that lunch lunch room is happening in like 50 dimensions. And our kid comes home and tells us one or two dimensions. And anytime we want to guide them or weigh in or maybe make a phone call. We want to remember we are 48 dimensions short of understanding what was really going on in that situation. And so our goal largely will be to ask questions, seek guidance, be open minded. We very rarely have the full story worry, and we never want to forget that

Reena Ninan
hard to keep in mind when your emotions are full ahead and and hard to ignore sometimes.

Lisa Damour
Absolutely. And when your kids heard Absolutely,

Reena Ninan
that’s exactly right. Well, I’ll see you next week.

Lisa Damour
I’ll see you next week.

The advice provided by Dr. Damour here will not and does not constitute - or serve as a substitute for - professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice or intervention. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

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