Dear Family Coach: When my oldest child was in preschool I became friends with a core group of women. We have children the same age who attended the same school, and we did everything together. For years our children and families have been tight. However, over the last few years my daughter has had trouble with some of the other children in the group. They exclude her or they fight. Because of the drama with the kids I have already lost two friends. How do I handle my own friendships in this group when our children are no longer friendly? — Losing Friends
Dear Losing Friends: This group of women was probably a lifeline for you at one time. Raising young children is hard work, and it can feel isolating. When women meet under these circumstances they can become quite close. While the children are young, parents can usually cultivate friendships by finding commonalities with other parents. But as the children grow up, the mothers' friendships don't necessarily translate into the best friendships for the children. You are experiencing the friction that can result.
Evaluate your friendships with these women. You might find that even though you have been socializing as group, you may have a closer friendship with only a few mothers. Try to arrange time with these women and let the others slide. If your girls are still friendly, spend some time all together. But if your children don't appear to be as close, schedule time together without the kids. Create a monthly mom's night out. Meet for a walk around the park after school drop-off. Get together to paint pottery on Sunday mornings. Whatever you do, focus on your friendships and don't discuss the kids' friendships at all.
Dear Family Coach: My daughter is lazy. If the choice were left to her she would do nothing but sit around the house. I've always forced her to do activities for social and health benefits. Now that she is 15 she fights me on all of the activities. I'm worried that if she continues this way she will never amount to anything, but I am tired of pushing. Should I give up the fight? — Tired
Dear Tired: The days of micromanaging your child are long gone. You can't make her do anything. Even if you sign her up for ballet, you can't make her dance. Sure, you can strongly suggest. You can enforce consequences, such as taking away her cellphone, but she may decide to accept the consequence rather than do the activity. Constant arguing about this will eventually affect your relationship. She will tune you out, which is a bad place for both of you to be. Instead, leave it up to her. If she decides not to do activities then at least make it undesirable to stay home. Set limits on screen time and restrict cellphone use. too.
In addition, it might be time to shift your thoughts on predicting her future. Yes, it is true that your daughter will have to do more than score good grades to get into a competitive college. But there are other paths in life and hers is yet to be determined. Putting pressure on her to be something at 15 may overwhelm her and cause her to fall further. It is possible she would be very motivated if she found the right outlet. Spend some time thinking outside the box for activities that might suit her. If she loves animals, she could enjoy volunteering at an animal shelter. If she likes sports but doesn't want to play, maybe find an internship in the sports media department of a local minor league team. Whatever you do give her some space.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.