‘When you ask yourself is that person my friend or enemy… they are your enemy.’ The Urban Dictionary.
The term ‘frenemy’ has become more core common over the years. It is extremely hard to watch your child go through challenging times with their friendships. As parents, we instinctively want to protect our children however, it is our job to give them a chance to work their issues out before intervening.
It can be hard to recognise a toxic and negative friendship so here are some signs of a frenemy. They tend to:
- Leave your child out, creating exclusivity with friendships
- Put your child down in a passive aggressive manner
- Manipulate your child into thinking they’re not good enough or making them think everything is their fault
- Are not supportive or accepting of your child’s feelings
- Spread rumours and gossip
I’ll use my 10-year-old daughter as an example. She has a lovely bunch of friends at school but there is one girl who caused a lot of issues and challenges. She was a frenemy. My daughter had been told by this girl that her happy and chatty personality was annoying and she has to stop talking. I assured it wasn’t and she shouldn’t feel she has to change herself for anyone. The other girl started to exclude her at recess and lunch and started to spread rumours about her. Luckily my daughters’ other friends have known her for a long time and didn’t believe any of them. They supported her. I didn’t want to tell my daughter what to do, rather I slowly helped her recognise her feelings when put into the two different situations. When my daughter played with the girl, she was sad and withdrawn and when she didn’t play with the other girl, she was happy and vibrant. Although it took a while, my daughter started to understand the difference between a friend and a frenemy.
In my experience we can encourage our children to:
- Find new friends outside of the friendship circle they’re in
- Join some lunchtime school based groups or clubs such as chess, choir, drumming, running or musical theatre. Every school has so many different choices
- Join a club such as netball, soccer, football, dance, martial arts, the choices are endless!
- Organise for your child’s friends to come and spend some time at your home
There are parents who want their kids to stick to one group of friends their entire childhood. We should be encouraging our children to branch out and make friends with kids from school, from their sports clubs, around the neighbourhood and with family friends. This way your child is able to experience different personalities.
Another great way to talk positively about friendships to your child is by telling them about your own friendship history. Tell them about your good friends and tell them about any frenemies you may have come across. Tell them how you handled your own issues and challenges. Tell them what lessons you have learned along the way. It will help your child understand they are not the only ones who are going through or have gone through this.
Teach your child their real friends will:
- Be inclusive
- Care about their feelings
- Treat them with respect
- Stick up for them
Help build your childs self-esteem and confidence so much that they will be less likely to accept any toxic or negative behaviour. This will also help your child to work through any challenges they may face in the future.