Perspective | Carolyn Hax: The parents of her daughter’s friend cut her out. What can Mom do?


During this pandemic emotions are running high. I am particularly fed up with these parents.

How should I approach this? It does seem like parents are overly cautious and immature. Just rude. My husband says ignore, you are only hearing this from the side of a 15-year-old. I, on the other hand, would like to send a note to the parents explaining how hurtful they are. I have never been one to keep my feelings inside. What do you think?

S.: I think the working definition of maturity includes knowing there are times when inside is exactly where your feelings belong.

Your daughter, who sounds like a typical adolescent with typical emotional volatility, needs you to handle this better than she does.

That includes making it clear to her that these are stressful times for everybody; that people’s circumstances vary, and so some families need to be stricter than others; that the understanding of covid-19 has evolved and the messaging is tainted by politics, so even people with identical circumstances and risk tolerances can feel reasonable in drawing different conclusions; and that, in general, not getting what we want can really hurt but it doesn’t mean we always have to react.

In other words, what an upset adolescent really needs from an adult in her life is sympathy and a cool head. Your husband gets this, it seems.

So: “I know it hurts. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”

And then: “But ‘this’ might not be exactly as you perceive it.” Her friend’s parents are probably like the rest of us, trying their best under extremely difficult conditions — trying to give their daughter some social relief when they’ve been told even this one accommodation isn’t safe.

Your daughter needs to hear this reasoning from you to expand her understanding of what’s possible beyond her reflexive conclusions. There’s not much upside to a pandemic, but it’s an excellent opportunity for you to set an example, to teach her the nearly magic benefits of considering multiple points of view and learning not to take things personally unless there’s no other choice.

If your telling of the story is accurate, then your daughter knows only one thing for a fact, that just the one friend was allowed in this family’s bubble. Right? So that leaves plenty of room for her to classify her exclusion not as a massive personal insult but instead as a bad break. Your daughter caught the wrong end of these parents’ need to be restrictive — as all of this girl’s friends did but one. Oh well.

It’s still sad, missing someone, missing out. It’s just not a targeted hit.

Please teach yourself this reasoning, too: Whenever there’s even a molecule of opportunity not to take something personally, seize it. It tamps down insecurities, lengthens relationships, warms attitudes, opens minds and smothers drama completely.

It’s not even your drama to feed in the first place — but I’ll leave the boundary issue for another column.

When your daughter is feeling less raw, you can also discuss the whole inevitability of not being universally loved. Don’t validate the idea these parents dislike her — you don’t know, and it’s not useful — but do discuss the inevitability that someone eventually will. She doesn’t like everyone she meets, does she? Okay then. Works both ways.

And so if she can step out of her feelings long enough to recognize 1. Everyone is unlikable to someone; 2. Therefore, all people who live full and rewarding lives do so amid at least one relative/neighbor/colleague/acquaintance who doesn’t like them; therefore, it is possible to live a full and rewarding life after finding out someone dislikes you.

Parent version: There’s life after learning someone isn’t wowed by your kid.

If it ever comes to the point where someone crosses a line into mistreating your child, and it’s significant enough to warrant intervening on her behalf, please even then don’t “send a note to the parents explaining how hurtful they are,” not without the due diligence of getting your facts straight (to the extent you can). Engage with people calmly. Ask questions without presuming the answers. Test your daughter’s assumptions, and your own, before venturing an opinion.

Act because it’s responsible to, not just because you’re upset.

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