Mothers of Tweens: Remaining Friends When Your Daughters Have “Broken-Up”

Traditionally, middle school girls are fickle when it comes to friendship.

One day, they are best friends. The next day, they’re enemies.

The cycle may end when the girls go their separate ways or continue for a tumultuous time. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and mothers are often dragged along for the ride. It gets even more complicated when they’re friends.

Can you remain friends when your daughters have “broken up?”

Dr. Brett Laursen, author of “Relationship Pathways, From Adolescence to Young Adulthood,” says yes. “If the girls aren’t really friends anymore, the mothers can certainly provide them with the opportunity to learn how to behave civil-mannered to people that they aren’t close to anymore.”
His teenage daughter dated a boy from their carpool. When they broke up, she still had to drive with him to school. It was difficult at first, but she learned an important lesson.

“When you go into a relationship, you have to realize that maybe it will continue or maybe it won’t,” says Dr. Laursen. “You have to consider the consequences of your behavior when you exit.”

Girls can be cruel

If your daughter is bullied or dumped by a friend, then maintaining constant contact with that other family might be interpreted as a lack of support, says Dr. Irene Levine, author of “Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-up With Your Best Friend.” If your child feels supported and understood, they feel validated,” says Rachel Kelber, a social worker with Jewish Child and Family Services.

A mother can validate her daughter’s feelings by:

  • Asking how she feels
  • Sharing a story about a disagreement she had with a friend
  • Explaining the coping skills she used to work through that disagreement.

“They will learn, through modeling, that friends can overcome problems and retain their friendships despite disagreements,” Dr. Levine says. “They will also learn to be independent and not rely on their parents to resolve their friendship problems.”

By observing their mothers friendships, Kelber says girls learn:

  • How to be a good friend
  • Conflict resolution
  • Skill building
  • Communication
  • Managing emotions
  • Coping skills

That’s not to say mothers should always remain friends. “In these fights between the kids, other stuff emerges about the parents that you didn’t know,” says Mary Rose, a therapist with Metropolitan Family Services in Evanston/Skokie. “A lot of people assume they share the same family values, honesty, kindness and empathy. But they don’t. If they have a total disregard for your child, you want to rethink your friendship with them.”