Author Topic: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?  (Read 1004 times)

Poundwise

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Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« on: August 04, 2018, 07:14:54 PM »
I have a social problem that I would appreciate some input on, especially from forum members who have experienced divorce either as a child or as a parent.

Here's the situation:
The parents of one of my sons' oldest and best friends are likely to get divorced. I am friendly with but not close to them, and they have not chosen to confide this information in me.  However, I am good friends with their nanny and close with their son, whom I have known since he was a toddler. 

Over the past couple of years, my son has expressed some frustration with his friend for various reasons ... nothing very serious for a kid his age (cheats on games, tells fibs and expects to be believed, always wants his own way, etc.) Until this year, I just advised my son that he can speak up when he's not happy but he can't expect his friend to change, so enjoy his friend as he is, in the settings where they do have fun. Every time they have made up their quarrels and seem to have been as happy and close together as ever.

As you can guess, I heard from the nanny that the friend's parents' marriage is on the rocks and not likely to recover.  I don't generally like gossip, but she spoke from concern because the child has been acting up, and right now the parents are in their own worlds. I also heard directly from the child when I was driving him home one day; among many things upsetting him, he was very worried about his parents' money (they are very well-off but spendy, so apparently they had been quarreling about it). It made me so sad.  I told him that he should not have to solve his parents' problem, that they were grownups and they would be able to handle it.  And they probably will be just fine.

Meanwhile, my son has many other friends, and I once overheard him complaining about his friend to another boy. They were agreeing about what a pain he was.  I cut in and told them that it wasn't nice to talk about friends behind backs, and that if there is a problem they should bring it up to him directly and privately. More recently, my son's best friend asked my son, "We're best friends, aren't we?"  And my son waffled-- not very skillfully either.  OUCH.

So here's the point. This poor kid needs his friends right now.  Maybe he hasn't been the greatest friend himself, but he's been going through a lot.  Maybe the boys would have started growing apart anyway.  But I think my son needs to cut his friend a little slack.  I tried to tell my son the other day that his friend's family was going through a "hard time" but that didn't seem to register.  But I'm afraid to tell it to him straight, since first of all my son is a lunkhead who might accidentally blab about it to other friends, and second of all, I feel guilty for knowing at all.  His friend should be the one who tells him.

What's the best way to help support this child? How do you teach your kid to be a loyal friend but not a doormat? It's a hard skill for even adults.

« Last Edit: August 04, 2018, 07:16:55 PM by Poundwise »

Plugging Along

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2018, 07:31:32 PM »
It is not up to you to tell your son about his friends parents.   That would be very gossipy and could go terribly wrong. Especially hearing from a nanny is the worst.

You can encourage you child to give him slack, and keep reinforcing that he may be having a hard time.  I would be saying stuff, like ‘he may be acting this way because he just needs a friend’. 

We have taught by teaching our kids to give the benefit of the doubt.  If his friend in  The past has generally been a good friend, and his hpb havior is changing, maybe ask your son what he thinks is going on.  If he doesn’t know probe him a bit to talk to his friend.   It’s possible that he may just be going aparttol.

I encourage my kids to talk it out with their friends, and extend an olive branch to former friends.   It’s up to their friends to take it. 


okits

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2018, 08:06:55 PM »
I would be saying stuff, like ‘he may be acting this way because he just needs a friend’. 

I'm not the OP, but I'm going to keep this line in my back pocket.  It's helpful without putting words into anyone's mouth about what might be causing the hard time (your children can ask their friends directly if they want details).

Poundwise, my kids are super young so I don't have any practical advice to offer, just sympathy.  It's hard to know how much to say or explain to kids.  You don't say how old your son is but I think for stuff like divorce I'm going to wait until my kid brings up the question as it's a difficult topic and possibly hard for a young child to understand without having a concrete example.  In the meantime maybe your family can be a friend to this kid.  Have him over for a meal, play date, or special outing (things where the kids can be together but an adult will be present, too).  Give the kid a chance to have some fun with other people who are happy and an escape from anything happening at home.

Poundwise

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2018, 08:50:49 PM »
It is not up to you to tell your son about his friends parents.   That would be very gossipy and could go terribly wrong. Especially hearing from a nanny is the worst.
Thanks, that's what I thought.  I hate to have heard it from the nanny, but she truly loves this child (she has been with the family since before he was born) and has been trying to shield him from the anger and bad feelings in the house. They aren't directed at him. He doesn't get much discipline at home and is a good deal indulged, but it is still hard to live in such an unhappy atmosphere.

You can encourage you child to give him slack, and keep reinforcing that he may be having a hard time.  I would be saying stuff, like ‘he may be acting this way because he just needs a friend’. 

We have taught by teaching our kids to give the benefit of the doubt.  If his friend in  The past has generally been a good friend, and his hpb havior is changing, maybe ask your son what he thinks is going on.  If he doesn’t know probe him a bit to talk to his friend.   It’s possible that he may just be going aparttol.

I encourage my kids to talk it out with their friends, and extend an olive branch to former friends.   It’s up to their friends to take it.

I know this child loves my son, and he decompresses when he comes to our house.  I don't see such a change in his behavior as his nanny sees (she says he has become rebellious and short tempered), but rather a failure to progress and correct some immature behaviors that his peers are outgrowing. On the other hand, he's a social and sunny-natured child, so he does also have many friends, just not close friends. The boys don't quarrel much one-on-one at their houses, but mostly at school when in groups with other kids. It seems the other kids get fed up with this boy because he wants to win everything and always be the center of attention.

Encouraging my son to talk out his problems with his friend is a good idea.  My son has his own issues and probably doesn't have the social intelligence to do so kindly or effectively, but I suppose I can have him practice more on his siblings.
 

Poundwise

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2018, 09:28:21 PM »
I would be saying stuff, like ‘he may be acting this way because he just needs a friend’. 

I'm not the OP, but I'm going to keep this line in my back pocket.  It's helpful without putting words into anyone's mouth about what might be causing the hard time (your children can ask their friends directly if they want details).

Poundwise, my kids are super young so I don't have any practical advice to offer, just sympathy.  It's hard to know how much to say or explain to kids.  You don't say how old your son is but I think for stuff like divorce I'm going to wait until my kid brings up the question as it's a difficult topic and possibly hard for a young child to understand without having a concrete example.  In the meantime maybe your family can be a friend to this kid.  Have him over for a meal, play date, or special outing (things where the kids can be together but an adult will be present, too).  Give the kid a chance to have some fun with other people who are happy and an escape from anything happening at home.

We do have this boy over every week and have fun or just chill, which is something that I can do for him.  I just felt so bad that my son is oblivious to the fact that his friend needs him.  My son is kind and sympathetic, but he's still a kid and it's beyond his power to guess there's an issue. He just thinks his friend is being a jerk. I'll try okits' line to see if that helps him find a little more patience.

The boys are now 9 and have known each other for almost their whole lives, gone to all the same schools, moved at almost the same time to the same new town, etc.  I did think of something my son could say to his friend. They're not best friends, they're brothers.

@austin944, I feel pretty certain that there is nothing more to the issue than the stress of two incompatible but basically decent people who can't afford to get divorced for a while, hating each other but having to live in the same house. I know they love and are gentle to their kids but they're too distracted to provide structure right now.   I can provide an ear and a hug for this child if he needs it. He also does have his nanny, who is more like a grandmother, and would take a bullet for him. We'll get him through this, just have to figure out how.

I'm terribly sorry you had to go through this alone as a kid. It is just terrible how we adults create such collateral damage while thrashing around. I hope you have a support system today that is helping you to heal.



Mezzie

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2018, 07:46:48 AM »
You're right that it's probably not best to tell your son the details as he's likely to blab and make things worse. I also worry about creating an enabling or codependent streak in your son if you encourage too much indulgence.

Kids are learning to navigate relationships. This friend is a major part of his life (like family) and there will be times when they can't stand each other (like family! :p). That's okay. Your son's reactions to his friend's inappropriate behavior are going to be what teach that friend that his behavior is inappropriate. The kid NEEDS that reaction from peers he respects and loves, even if at times it can be painful.

Good for you for telling him not to talk behind anyone's back and to address issues directly face to face. You're doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, as it seems you have a good relationship with the boy and his family, you can offer to listen to the boy's frustrations and worries with a kind ear.

Good luck. It's really hard to see kids in pain and not be able to magically fix it (I work with troubled teens -- I still struggle accepting that I can only help so much). What you can do is show as much love, patience, and kindness as you can and hope in the long run it makes a difference in the boy's life and that your modeling of that behavior will teach your son how to do the same.

px4shooter

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2018, 08:30:06 PM »
How old and mature is your kid?

Why not disclose it? Why not explain to your kid why the other kid is acting that way? Why not explain how he should act and lead by example and hopefully fill in the voids this kid is searching for?


marty998

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2018, 06:34:38 AM »

The boys are now 9 and have known each other for almost their whole lives, gone to all the same schools, moved at almost the same time to the same new town, etc.  I did think of something my son could say to his friend. They're not best friends, they're brothers.

Having once been a 9 year old boy (as if that qualifies me to answer this question lol):

- best friendships at that age may survive, or they may not. A lot happens around 11-13 when new peer groups form on transition to high school.
- what you said earlier about kids (not) keeping secrets? Spot on, if you tell your son, it'll likely be on the 6 o'clock news the next day :)

How old and mature is your kid?

Why not disclose it? Why not explain to your kid why the other kid is acting that way? Why not explain how he should act and lead by example and hopefully fill in the voids this kid is searching for?

What happens if the quarrelling parents end up resolving their differences and in fact live happily ever after? You don't want to be the one going around saying "so and so's marriage is on the rocks, when at the end of the day they might just be having a tough period and end up staying together.

Only those 2 people involved know what is truly going on. Hey, for all we know the nanny could be the source of the domestic problems :O

Warlord1986

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2018, 08:07:33 AM »
"Sometimes people don't act on their best behavior when they're stressed. Billy's having a rough time and it would be kind of you to be patient with him."

I wouldn't tell your kid about the marriage problems. Your kid's not likely to understand it, and it's none of his business anyway.

Poundwise

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Re: Should I tell child that his best friend has family troubles?
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 05:47:34 PM »
All very very good advice.  I will absolutely not tell my son.  Thank you everyone.