Friendship Expert Annie Fox answers your questions on friendship issues in middle school and beyond.
Q1: How do you maintain a friendship when there are big changes that get in the way. For example: studying/moving to uni or having a family.
Annie: Now, more than ever, it is easy to maintain connections with people. That said, there needs to be a willingness and a time commitment on the part of both parties, to put in the effort to stay in touch. A friendship, whether at close range or long distance, is a two-way street. It’s not enough for one friend to devote 100% or even 200% to the friendship if the other person doesn’t put in the effort. If you’ve got a child whose friend has experienced a “big change” it may be that this friendship will move into a new phase, for whatever reason. Please reassure your child that the “change” is not due to anything he or she did “wrong.” Explain that sometimes people get focused on other things require their attention more than this particular friendship. If your child is feeling sad because a friendship is slipping away, encourage him or her to express those feelings to their friend. No guarantee that anything will or can change, but there is benefit to have the opportunity to speak up and share feelings. Also, encourage your child to be on the look-out for new friendships. That will help ease any feelings of loss or abandonment. I hope this helps!
Q2: My 14 yr old son pushes other boys away when they try and be mates, as he is afraid of be called gay, he is struggling with his sexuality at the moment. Any coping strategies very welcome.
Annie: This is a challenging situation that I believe would be helped with the support of a counselor or therapist who specializes in working with teen boys and their parents. Your son would benefit from a safe environment in which he can talk openly and honestly about his sexuality and his concerns about how getting close to other boys as friends might be interpreted. I would also suggest that as his parent, you also have a session with a therapist. Talking with a trained professional about the most supportive approach to take with a young teen who is “struggling” with his sexuality will be beneficial to you and to your son.