Friend Breakups Are the Worst: Here's How to Help Her Through It
Your daughter and her bestie have always been like peanut butter and jelly. Birds of a feather. Two peas in a pod. If your girl ever ignored you to check a text, there was never a doubt who was on the other end of those emojis. Until…now.
Whether hurt feelings are involved or the two are simply growing apart, friend breakups can be confusing, painful, and even potentially damaging to her sense of self. And assuming you’ve gone through a friendship fizzle once or twice in your own life, your heart is likely absolutely aching for her.
Instead of making excuses for the other girl, taking sides, or trying to ignore the whole situation away, there are a few things you can do to help. (Besides opening up a container of ice cream. Although ice cream is often good in these situations, too!)
Find Out if It’s a Breakup or a Shakeup
Let’s say your daughter comes home from soccer practice insisting she’s never speaking to her BFF again. Friendship over! Or is it? Unless it’s typical for this girl to mistreat or bully your girl (in which case, she’s better off without her!), this is probably worth a little extra investigating.
Ask her what happened. If the other girl said or did something hurtful unintentionally (or, who knows, possibly intentionally), ask if the two of them talked about it afterward and if your daughter let her friend know how she was feeling.
Suggest that when she sees her friend next, she use an “I” statement to explain her feelings and try to get to the bottom of things. It works like this:
- First, she should find a quiet time to chat with her friend one-on-one—not in front of a group!
- When they’re together, your girl should say, “When you [fill in the blank with specifics about whatever was said or done that upset her], I feel [fill in the blank with how she feels and why].
There’s a chance this was all a misunderstanding or that the other girl wants an opportunity to apologize so the two of them can get past this. There’s even the possibility that your girl might learn she’s unintentionally done something to upset her friend.
Calmly and compassionately discussing the emotional play-by-play of relationships is a skill that most of us could still work on. If she starts practicing healthy communication now, it will benefit her throughout her life in all kinds of circumstances—and might just help salvage this friendship!
Give Her a Break (with a Bit Less Drama)
You know the Girl Scout camp song that goes, “make new friends, but keep the old”? Note that it doesn’t say, “make new friends, but keep the old and hang out with each of them all the time, even if you don’t have that much in common anymore.”
It’s sad, but sometimes the friendships that once meant everything to us change and shift so that they no longer serve the purpose they once did. And as girls get older and start discovering more about who they are, where their passions lie, and what roles they want to play in this world, it’s only natural that they may grow apart from friends they once held so dear. That process (and the awareness that it’s happening!) can be confusing and upsetting for both girls to navigate.
If your daughter is the one who has “outgrown” some of her older interests and friend groups, there’s a chance her former bestie is accusing your girl of acting like someone she’s not (even though she’s just naturally evolving) or giving her guilt trips for hanging out with a new crowd. All of that can feel pretty crummy, lead your daughter to have feelings of anger or resentment, and leave her tempted to call off that relationship altogether.
Obviously, your daughter doesn’t have to remain best friends (or even really friends at all!) with anyone—it’s important to honor the good times they did have by being kind and respectful.
Many times, the best way to handle a situation like this is by simply taking an informal break instead of specifically breaking up. That way, there’s no big announcement of “we’re not friends anymore!,” but your girl can slowly start to spend more time with other people while pressing pause on a friendship that just isn’t working out so great right now. If they miss each other and want to bridge the gap that had formed between them, great! The break was just temporary, and they can go back to being better friends. If not, then it just wasn’t meant to be.
She may feel guilty about putting some space between herself and her friend, but remind her that it’s not a crime to stop enjoying someone else’s company. What’s never OK? Putting someone else down, making fun of them, ghosting without explanation, betraying their trust (no blabbing her deepest secrets now that they’re not besties!), or otherwise going out of the way to make them feel excluded.
And as for social? Unfriending, unfollowing, or deleting pics from happier times can essentially serve as a declaration of war in Girl World. Urge your daughter to take the more subtle approach by adjusting her settings so she sees less of the former bestie (without actually severing digital ties) or simply spending less time online herself.
When It’s Really and Truly Broken
If she’s the one who got ditched or is being mistreated, she’s likely having all the feels—from being majorly bummed out to wishing her former bestie ultimate doom—and that can mean some serious mood swings. If she’s already expressed her sadness and confusion to the other girl, suggest she journal out the rest of her feelings in an old-fashioned notebook. It’ll give her the time and space to work through her emotions without running the risk of saying something on social or in another public forum that could cause even more drama.
Also be there to listen, and take her feelings seriously. If she’s upset, let her be—she’s mourning an important relationship in her life, and that shouldn’t be simply brushed off. Urge her to think not only about what she misses about her friend but also what she definitely doesn’t miss. Did her friendship ever leave her feeling bad about herself, wondering if she was “cool enough,” or thinking she needed to be or do something she didn’t feel comfortable with? Those are all signs that some time off from this girl could be a great thing.
Give her space, but also encourage her to put herself in situations where she might meet new girls more aligned with her interests and values. Challenging herself to learn something new—like how to skateboard or play her favorite song on guitar—could also be a healthy distraction right now and give her something to feel proud of in the end.
The hurt of a best friend breakup can run really deep, but with you by her side to guide her, you’ll both make it through and could end up closer than ever.