THE BLOG
09/23/2011 01:19 pm ET | Updated Nov 23, 2011

Can Adults Be Friends If Their Kids Don't Get Along?

Problems with kids' friendships often spill over to their parents.

Question

Dear Irene,

My son and another couple's son don't get along. The other kid has some issues and has tried to hurt my son either verbally or physically several times over the past few years (put his hands around his neck a few times, pushed him off a bicycle). Although we like the parents, we are having a difficult time with this situation. My son has sort of "let things go" in the past, because he understands that this child has some issues (e.g., he cannot control his anger, etc.)

However, the last thing that happened was a game changer. He pushed my son off of his bike while my husband and the other dad were there. I am upset because my son never got an apology and not even a phone call to see if he was okay. We felt bad for this child in the past, and my son has always defended him to other kids at school, even though he has been the recipient of this child's abuse. This has been going on for over four years.

We have not socialized with this couple since this last incident. I went to their house to let them know how hurt and disappointed I felt, thinking maybe an apology phone call might come, but it never did. I have come to the decision that the kids don't have to be friends. I am also finding it very difficult to "let go" of this and pretend it didn't happen and resume our friendship. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Signed,
Leah

Answer

Dear Leah,

Since the physical aggression has been repeated over time and takes places even with adult supervision, I would share your concern that your son's physical safety may be in jeopardy. I completely understand wanting to back off from the relationship with the kid -- and the other family.

I admire your son's understanding of his friend's disability. This speaks well of him and the parenting he has received. My heart aches for the other family, who seem to have an out-of-control kid who likely has emotional problems of one sort or another. The parents may be embarrassed, humiliated or depressed about their son's abusive behavior and their inability to control it; perhaps, they are in denial. It sounds like they need more professional help and support. Even if the kid's behavior isn't a deal-breaker, it seems like the parents' non-response to you and your son is.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Irene

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