Common Friend Problems Tweens Encounter

Three children (7-10), boy whispering to girl

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As your child grows up, life can get complicated, and that includes friendships. Friendships can be challenging at any age, but helping your child deal with friend problems is something you must do. When a child is rejected by peers, bullied, or is being manipulated by a friend, they don't always know what to do or how to respond. Peer pressure and the need to be socially accepted can complicate matters even more.

While friendships can occasionally be difficult, tweens need friends and having friends will help them deal with all the challenges associated with middle school. Below are some common friendship problems your child might encounter in middle school, along with a few simple solutions to help solve them.

Being Excluded

For many tweens, their biggest fear is being socially excluded or ostracized from friends and peers. Tweens desire to be a part of a group, and without one, they feel lost. To make matters even more complicated, many tweens experience friendship problems in middle school, and may actually lose a friend or two in the process, even long-term friendships may suffer.

If your child is being excluded, try to find out why. Are his or her social skills in need of improvement? Or, is there some other reason why his or her peers reject him or her? It's probably a good idea to touch base with your child's teachers or guidance counselor, to see if they have any suggestions or helpful information.

Dealing With Bullying

Educate your child about bullying, and give him or her ideas on how to handle a bully should he or she come face to face with one. Also, teach your child that good friends don't bully or try to manipulate others. Good friends also don't torment their friends.

Knowing the difference between a good friend and a bad one is important information your child will need throughout adolescence.

Being Dumped

Rejection is never easy, and it's especially difficult for tweens and teens. Sometimes children are rejected, even by long-time friends, or dumped in favor of more popular kids. It's also possible for friends to grow apart during middle school, as interests change or develop.

If your child is dumped by a friend, be there to offer support. Let him or her know that sometimes friendships don't last, and point out friends that are still there for him or her. Help your child expand their circle of friends through social and extracurricular activities.

When Friends Go Bad

Some children change during middle school, and it's possible that your child may have a friend who experiments with drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous behaviors. Your best line of defense is to know your child's friends and to chat frequently with other parents. That way, you're likely to spot a dangerous friendship ​and deal with it before it gets out of hand.

Find ways to keep your child busy in order to limit time alone with a bad friend. Encourage your tween to find interests and extracurricular activities in order to expand their circle of friends and interests. Also, be sure your child knows what your expectations for him or her are, as well as any consequences should your tween stray from your family rules.

Being Manipulated

Friendships can be difficult, even the best of friendships are challenging. It's possible that your child may encounter a friend who manipulates him or her, and that's something you need to help your child deal with.

Explain what manipulation is, and how to stand up for yourself. Arm your child with phrases or responses that help him or her deal with manipulative friends, such as, "I don't like being manipulated, so please stop this now!" Also, teach your child the qualities of a good friend, and how to be one for others.

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  2. KidsHealth from Nemours. Helping kids cope with cliques. Updated July 2018.

  3. KidsHealth from Nemours. Helping kids deal with bullies. Updated July 2013.

  4. USCF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Your tween: 10- to 13-year-olds.