Trying to reconnect when a friendship starts to fade
Episode 32 – Tara, Age 12: Friend is pulling away
Think About It Questions
Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s hear today’s question:
My name’s Tara, and I’m in 7th grade, and I'm wondering, what should you should you do if one friend starts to kind of lean away from the group?
Hi, Tara, thank you for sending in this question! It sounds like your friend is less interested in being part of your group than she was before. It also sounds like you’re not sure why this is happening, and you might be feeling confused, hurt, angry, or rejected.
We all like the idea of best friends forever, but scientists have found that changes in friendships are common for kids. Among first graders, half of friendships don’t last a whole school year. Among fourth and eighth graders, one out of every four friendships doesn’t make it through a school year.
There are a lot of reasons why a friendship might fizzle. Sometimes there’s a big blow-up, but more often the end of a friendship involves a gradual fade. Kids are constantly growing and changing, and sometimes it just happens–through no one’s fault–that friends grow apart.
Maybe you and your friend have different interests now. That could make hanging out together less fun.
Maybe your friend is super busy or stressed, or in different classes, or on a different sports team, so you just don’t see each other as much anymore.
Maybe you’ve been super busy and your friend thinks you’re not as interested in being friends anymore, so she’s hanging back.
Maybe there was some misunderstanding, and she thinks your group doesn’t want her around, or maybe there’s been some change in your group that makes it less fun or less comfortable for her to hang out.
Maybe your friend has made some new friends, and she’s trying to divide her time between your old group and the new group. She still likes you, but she also wants to be with the new friends.
So, how can you handle this, especially when you don’t know why she’s leaning away? Well, there are a few things you should definitely NOT do. You should definitely not tell everyone she’s mean or stuck up. That’s not kind, and it’s probably not true.
Even though you might feel hurt or angry, you also should definitely not yell at her. That’s not going to make her want to hang out more with you!
What you could do, if you want to repair the friendship, is approach her one-on-one–so she doesn’t feel ganged up on–and ask her about it. You could say, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been hanging out with the group as much lately. What’s going on?”
Now, maybe she’ll tell you about a problem, and you could fix it or explain something to work things out. But she might just say something vague to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.
Either way, if you want to rebuild the friendship, tell her how much she means to you. You could say, “I miss you” or “I care about you” or “Our friendship matters a lot to me.”
Then invite her to do something fun with you or with the whole group. Having fun together could rebuild your connection and help her remember why she enjoyed being with you before.
If she says no, that’s okay. Your invitation says you want to reconnect. Maybe she’ll respond by inviting you some time, or maybe she’ll rejoin your group later. You could wait a week or two and invite her again. If she says no to three invitations, let it go. Be friendly when you see her, but give her time and space to come to you.
I don’t know if the distance you’re sensing with your friend is a temporary break, a longer-term cooling, or a full break-up. But if this friendship was good before, try to leave the door open to reconnecting by being friendly when you see her.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.
And be sure to check out my books for kids about friendship: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, and my new book, Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.