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Teens & Destructive Friendships

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Destructive Friendships


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13-year-old daughter's volatile, destructive relationship

March 2009

Wow, I am at my wit's end, and am feeling really crushed by this situation. I hope someone can help or provide ideas.

My daughter, 13, is deeply involved in a relationship (friendship with another girl) that is very destructive to her, and by now to our family. Their friendship has always been quite volatile, and has now reached the point where *every* time my daughter talks to or spends time with this girl, she ends up in tears, or so foul-mouthed and angry that she cannot communicate with us in her family at all.

She constantly reports that ''X'' ''sucks'', ''calls her names'', ''is mean to her''. This is what I see / hear when I hear them talk - constant criticism, nasty tones. No sign of any happiness, love, positive interaction, or uplifting feelings.

It has gradually gone from bad to worse. I have talked with my daughter about it, but almost as a ''rebellion'' against me it seems, she will not listen to what I have to say.

It is now bad enough that I want to completely end their friendship; tell my daughter she can no longer see this girl because it is causing her so much harm (to her self-esteem, happiness, etc.) It is also having effects upon our whole family as my daughter has become so sad and angry, so often, about this girl.

Is my putting a stop to my daughter seeing this other girl even reasonable? How can I influence this friendship so it isn't so destructive? What do I say to the other parents? Is there any professional I might turn to for help?

I used to think I must be imagining how bad it is; I no longer believe it is my imagination in any way.

She does have other friends, but will usually report that ''Y'', or ''Z'' doesn't want to hang out with her because they have other, better friends. (She has often referred to ''X'' as her ''best friend'' in the past).

What would you do? I am tempted to call the other family and tell them I don't want my daughter spending time with theirs. Do you have other ideas? Do you have a kid who has gone through the same thing? How did they come out on the other side of it?

I feel the worst for my daughter as I think she deserves MUCH better than this (and I am probably projecting into the future where she might become involved with boyfriend(s) that treat her badly...). But I also feel bad for everyone in our family. Please help, if you can! Sad and angry myself; mostly feel badly for her


Unfortunately, middle school seems to see a lot of this. My daughter had a terrible friend (she even put a porno site on our home computer). I found that how I restricted my daughter depends so much on my daughter and our relationship. A friend told her daughter that she couldn't socialize with a certain girl and the daughter listened. My daughter would never have stuck to that. I did, however, get the school guidance counselor involved since it seemed obvious that the other girl was having problems to behave like that. I almost called the mom, but the counselor took care of this. It's still an age where you can get involved. anonymous
Hi, I went through a similar situation with my daughter when she was in middle school. A girl who she spent a lot of time with at school was someone who I did not think was a positive influence on my daughter, to put it mildly. This girl lied constantly and tried to involve my daughter in activities that were unsafe and inappropriate. The way I handled it was to openly share with my daughter the issues that I had with her friend and since I could not control the time they spent together at school there was nothing I could do about that but away from school and if at all possible I made sure my daughter did not spend time with this child.

This did cause some conflicts between my daughter and I but I don't regret my actions. My daughter learned that I expected that the people she hung out with treated her with respect, and were at the very least ''law'' abiding, and those are the kinds of friends she has relationships with today.

I know it's not easy but stick to what you want for your daughter. She will appreciate it later. Mom of a High Schooler


At 16 and 17 my daughter was involved in a destructive relationship with her best friend. I finally called the other parents and found that they had wanted to end the relationship as much as I did. I wish I had called them earlier. Don't wait
My then-13-year-old daughter was involved in a somewhat similar situation a few years ago, and this is what worked for us. It came to a point when the ''friendship'' became unbearable, but she couldn't possibly see her life without her group of friends--imagine having to give up your social life completely! So I suggested that, just this one day, she eat lunch with another group of friends. Just for one day. She did it, and had a good day. So, I suggested that she do the same thing the next day. And then suggested it again the next day. And so on. We followed the old AA advice, and took it one day at a time. After about two weeks, she had bonded with a new group, was much happier, and no longer needed to hang out with the destructive group. There were still issues, but the worst had passed.

And, I' think the best time to suggest this is the next time she's feeling bad about this friendship--maybe not right in the immediacy of the moment, but after things have settled down. At some point she'll be ready to listen. And when you tell her it's ''for just one day'' it all seems so much more do-able. You also will want to admit to her that although you understand as much as possible what's going on, she's the one going through it, so it's much harder for her than you. (Think about it, would you be at all sad if you never saw this other girl again? Admit that to you daughter! Let her know that you're on her side, but that you also get that she's the one who has to live with this.)

Good luck to you. It can be so unbelievably hard to watch our kids when they're hurt. Keep loving her and talking to her and encouraging her.

All my best wishes for both of you. Feel free to contact me if you want to.


Do they go to the same school? Do they have any type of counselor? I would really push hard then for the counselor to meet with the girls, and the parents (maybe seperately) to discuss the negative effects of the relationship and set goals how to improve. Way better from counselor then from you.... HB
Once kids are teenagers, parents really cannot control them. If you try to control your daughter and her friendships, you will just be met with even more rebellion. There are other avenues I suggest. 1) Find out what is good about this relationship. Find something to praise about the friend. There must be something good there, or your daughter would not be involved with her. Talk to her about the pros and cons of the friendship, and let her make her own decisions. 2) Part of the reason that your daughter spends time with this person is because she has no one else. Help her find activities where she can meet new people. Theater, music, dance, sports, classes, something. 3) State your expectations. Tell her that even though she may feel very emotional after seeing this person, you expect her to treat the family and the family home with respect.

I know it is difficult to live with this situation, but I think it will get worse if you try to enforce a breakup. anon


13-year-old's new friends lie and steal and cut class

Jan 2008

I have a 13 year old daughter who is hanging out with a couple of kids I do not like. My daughter is generally a kind and respectful person who doesn't lie and tends to want to participate in activities like her sports and other after school classes. She has a lot of other very nice, friendly and motivated friends but lately she has chosen to spend most of her time with a small crowd of kids who are low achievers who tend toward secretiveness, petty crimes (stealing money from parents)and mischief. These kids live closer to us than my daughter's other friends so it's easy for the girls to visit at a few moments notice. One girl ditches school often and never seems to have homework so she has lots of free time and desire to play with my child who does have homework.

I have had a pretty hands-off policy as far as limiting who my child can see but I do limit when she can hang out with her friends. I insist that she does her homework but after she's done she wants to play with her friends. My daughter's grades and motivation and attitude have slipped recently. I'm wondering if there's a correlation between her chosen friends and her attitude/grades and whether I should get involved in her social life...and if so, how.

I'm curious if other parents have advice for me. anon


Hi, I had a very similar problem with my 13 years old daughter. She had a friend that I just couldn't trust and gave me a bad feeling. I was very opened with my daughter about it. I told her what I felt, I compared it with other of her friends that I liked, but always made sure to reaffirm my trust in her judgement choosing her friends. I was lucky enough that the girl sent such a nasty email to my daughter that she referred to the school counselor. She never told me who it was, but just guest it, and she knew how i felt. I never added ''you see, I was right'' and let her make her choices. What helped too is that my younger daughter didn't like that person either. The opened communication worked for us and my daughter broke up with her. I wish you and your family a similar outcome. a mom
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