Isn’t that the worst when you have a friend you adore but you can’t stand her kids? No doubt this puts a strain on and wedge between the relationship. You have to decide when and how to spend time with her.
It isn’t always easy loving other people’s children, but there are truly some children who are impossible to like. And the reality is that it comes down to the parenting. Children are a reflection of the parenting, time, love and attention they are receiving at home. We all have stories to tell and to share and to keep secret. So, here are five ways to cope if you have a friend you love with kids you don’t:
1. Don’t spend time with her if her kids are around. The easiest solution is to not spend time around your friend if her children are present. Ask to go out to girls’ lunches, girls’ nights, or to workout or go on a walk sans kids. This way, you get the benefit of your friend without having to deal with her children rubbing your last nerve.
2. Avoid playdates between your children/child and hers. The situation is even more challenging if you have a child in an age range where there can be playdates. It’s very likely that if you don’t enjoy her children, your children likely don’t either. It is your responsibility to take care of your children in this situation while also maintaining your friendship. Distract her with trying to plan adult time instead of playdate time with the kids.
3. Discuss parenting techniques which have worked with your kids. Being a parent is no small job. It is the toughest job out there. One great way to enhance your friendship and possibly help her with her children is to talk about parenting skills that have been lifesavers for you. Usually parents know when their kids are out of hand and even annoying, so if you bring these things up casually, you may find they are helpful to your friend who just may not be a natural when it comes to parenting.
4. Put distance in the friendship. When someone clearly is not parenting their children to be respectful, polite and decent human beings, it can change the respect you have for them. If it becomes a case where there is too much tension around her children, and your opinion of her has deeply affected your ability to see her the way you used to before children, this may need to be a friendship that you back away from, at least until your kids get a bit older.
5. Be honest with her. If things are tense and your avoidance tactics are not working, gently express your thoughts and emotions with her in a way that isn’t too cutting to her children but rather simple and truthful. For example, “I love our adult time together and want to continue to nurture that, but I have a hard time being around your children as do my children as it seems they have not yet learned to respect other people’s boundaries, which I am sure you are working on.” In this way, you are stating your need and also letting her know that her children are emotionally out of control, which is hard for you and your children to be around.
The apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. Parents whose children are not disciplined tend to come from parents who have a hard time disciplining themselves. But give your friend the benefit of the doubt and see if there are any tips you can gently put out there than could help. You may be pleasantly surprised. And if not, you can move forward knowing your were respectfully honest with her and yourself.
Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D., is a veteran, licensed psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She specializes in psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, including marriage and family therapy, grief counseling, childhood trauma, sexual issues, personality disorders, illness and more. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Learn more at sherriecampbellphd.com.