I had a very interesting conversation with a mother who called about her daughter’s hurt feelings.
Her daughter, 15, had a male friend the same age for about a year. According to the mother the relationship was very much just a "buddy" situation.
Going back to school, the daughter developed a friendship with a girl in her grade. She was explicit to her new friend that she would not have any sexual or flirtatious relationship with the "buddy."
Well, as you probably guessed, the gal friend and the buddy hooked up. Now the caller’s daughter is furious and has decided to dump them both.
"She has this habit," the mother continued, "of dropping people who don’t please her in some way.
"I tried to deal with her about that behavior, telling her it is not good for her to dispose of people so quickly. But she just gets so angry that there is no talking to her.
"She has been very upset since that happened — their hooking up or whatever — and it happened again just the other day. She saw them kiss."
This opened up discussion on a number of issues, including a sense of betrayal when there wasn’t one — as there isn’t one in a "buddy" situation — her perceived sense of ownership over her "buddy," as well as her rage as she assumed that she could give directives to her friends about their amorous feelings and behaviors.
At first, I was solely aimed at helping the mother understand that this was a teaching moment and not a "you poor baby" moment that most parents, this one included, tend to slip into.
It is fine for parents to show compassion and patient understanding of their child’s feelings of loss and confusion, as they begin to learn about life, motivations, obligations, control, and so on.
It is not fine to focus only on the resultant feelings because the deeper problems can go unnoticed and therefore never be approached in a way that might truly help that child for the rest of his or her life.
Once I put the girl’s hurt feelings together with the demands she has on her friends, the expectation of obedience and fidelity, and the rage that comes with perceived betrayal, it alerted me to the likelihood that this was a diagnosable problem. I suggested the mother take her child to psychiatrist who works with adolescents for a proper assessment and treatment plan.
Children need to learn that they don’t own friends, but that friends are independent human beings with their own needs, thoughts, and feelings. Children should be taught that friends are a blessing that should not be expected to give in to every one of our needs or desires or demands.
Friends are like the rings around Saturn: Some closer than others, but all are meaningful and beautiful in their own way.
The most distressing thing we can all do with friends is pile them up with our expectations, which are constructs of our need to feel loved, liked, valued, and important.
The best way, of course, of getting much of that coming your way is to first feed it to your prospective friends!
Dr. Laura (Laura Schlessinger) is a well-known radio personality and best-selling author. She appears regularly on many television shows and in many publications. Read Dr. Laura's Reports — More Here.
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