Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Fifth grader wants to know: How do I get my BFF back?!

October 29, 2014

I met Beth Engleman (@Momonastring) back in 2002 when we worked together on a project at LeapFrog. Smart woman. Quick to smile. Liked her immediately. Twelve years later she’s rocking it out at

Last Friday Beth kindly hosted a stop on The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour and challenged me with sticky questions from 4th-7th graders. This one touched my heart:

Is this really the end?

Is this really the end?

M: I am in 5th grade and my best friend since 1st grade is now hanging out with a new girl who moved to our school this year. They often don’t include me. What should I do to get my BFF back?

Annie: It can be very upsetting when someone you were once so close to now acts like the friendship isn’t important. It can be disappointing and confusing when a friend doesn’t treat you with the care and respect you deserve. It can also hurt when someone “new” shows up and seems to be taking your place in your friend’s heart.

You seem to think that you can do something to get your BFF “back.” Maybe if you had a magic wand and a handy spell you might be able to turn the friendship back to the way it was. That would be cool, but that’s not going to happen. You don’t need me to tell you that there are no such things as wands and spells. Your friend has her own thoughts and feelings and there is nothing you can do to get her to “include” you unless she chooses to do it! 

But even without magic, you are not powerless. There are always options for improving a situation, especially for lightening up the heavy way you feel right now. You are hurting. You may also be feeling jealous (of the new girl) and/or lonely. If your goal is to feel better, then you could talk to your friend (privately and calmly… you don’t need an audience or any drama). You might say something like this, “I really miss hanging out with you. I miss the good times we used to have. I feel left out when you and _____ do stuff without me.” That’s the truth and it is often empowering to speak the truth. Saying the words will give your friend something to think about. If the friendship grows stronger, then it was a good thing that you spoke up for yourself. If things between you do not change and the girls continue not including you, then it was still good that you spoke up. Now you know that you deserve to be treated with respect. Take what you’ve learned and be on the look-out for new friends. Good luck!

Check out the rest of Beth’s Q’s and my A’s and the rest of the blog tour.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA


Friendship issues from the 5th grade

May 8, 2012

After a brief hiatus (due to an Autism Awareness Month blog and a review of the new documentary Bully), here is Part 4 of a 5-part series on elementary school friendship issues. If you’re new to this series and you want to help the kids in your life deal with peer conflicts and bullying, please check out the previous segments: Friendship issues from the 2nd grade, the 3rd grade, and the 4th grade) For those of you with kids or students in 5th-8th grade, you might want to check out my Middle School Confidential™ book and apps series. It’s all about helping kids value themselves and learning the difference between Real Friends and the Other Kind. If you love a 4-8 year old, check out my picture book: Are You My Friend?

Now to the 5th graders questions:

How do you know someone is your friend? + 7 other similarly worded questions.

It’s a great question because you can’t tell just from looking at someone or maybe not even from knowing them for a little while.  So how can you tell when someone is a real friend or a fake friend? To answer this question, I asked my best friend, my husband David. Without hesitation he said, “By the way the person treats you!” Excellent answer! I agree. If you are wondering whether your friend is the real kind, there’s probably something going on that makes you uncertain about the friendship. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be asking the question. Aside from looking at your friend’s behavior, there’s another piece to figuring out if someone is a true friend or not, and that has to do with the way you feel when you’re with that friend. If you feel relaxed, safe, respected, accepted, listened to and comfortable enough to “be yourself,” then chances s/he is a real friend. Make sure that you are a real friend too!

If your friend is telling secrets, what should you do? There is no rule that says friends must tell each other everything. People are allowed to keep things to themselves if they choose to. But  I get the sense from your question that you feel your friend is talking about you, behind your back, in unkind ways. If you know this for sure then you should talk to your friend about it. Choose a private place (you don’t need an audience) and tell your friend what you’ve heard and how it makes you feel. Get to the bottom of what’s going on. That’s what friends do.

A girl bullies me all the time. She just got glasses and people are making fun of her. Should I stick up for her? You’ve got a good heart and you know how it feels to be teased and bullied. It makes you uncomfortable watching it happen to other people. You know that standing up for her is the right thing to do. It’s also the right thing to stand up for yourself the very next time she bullies you. Who knows? This may be the beginning of a great new friendship!

If a really cool person is really nice to you, but mean to other people, should you be their friend or not? It sounds like you may be a bit confused about what it means to be “really cool”. Truly “cool” people are not mean… to anyone! I can tell that you are “cool” because you have noticed this mean behavior and it obviously bothers you. When we notice things like this and we feel uncomfortable, it’s time to ask “What am I going to do about this?” I understand that the mean behavior isn’t directed at you, but let that uncomfortable feeling guide you in the direction of doing the right thing. The right thing to do, the “really cool” thing to do, is to stand up for the people who are being treated badly.

Why do other people feel like they have to bully people?? Such a great question to think about! There is no one “correct” answer, but sometimes, when we feel hurt, or jealous, we can get so angry we feel like hurting someone. When most of us feel that angry, we try to control ourselves, calm down and think things through. If we need to talk to someone about what just happened, then we can do that. Choosing to talk instead of retaliate (attack back), takes maturity.  Sometimes it’s a challenge to have that level of self-control and maturity. Sometimes we might not even be aware that we are bullying other people. That’s why  it’s so very  important, whenever someone is disrespectful to you or anyone else, to speak up. That’s the first step in reducing the amount of bullying in schools.

If a person you’ve known for a really long time (and was your only friend for a while) now starts acting like you can’t have any other friends and is being mean, what should you do? Your friend’s “meanness” may be coming from the fact that s/he is afraid of losing you. Your friend cares about you and wants to spend all their time with you, but the mean behavior is pushing you away. Exactly the opposite of what your friend wants! You need to talk with your friend ASAP. Because you two have known each other for such a long time, hopefully you can be honest with each other. Tell your friend that the meanness is not OK and reassure your friend that just because you want to spend time every now and then with other friends, doesn’t mean you don’t care about the friendship. You do!

A new kid from another country is being bullied because she can’t speak English. If you don’t even know her, should you stick up for her? I think you already know the answer to this question. The answer is YES! This girl needs a friend badly. Someone who can help her feel comfortable at school. Think about what a HUGE change it must be to leave home and travel to another country, to a new school where she knows no one, and is now surrounded by people speaking a language she doesn’t understand. That takes a lot of courage and a lot of getting used to. Please do whatever you can to be kind to this girl. Not only will you be helping her and showing her how friendly and welcoming American students can be, you will gain a new friend and learn wonderful new things about her culture.

What if someone is mad and ignoring you for something you didn’t do? It sounds like there was a misunderstanding that needs clearing up. That can only happen when you two talk to each other. I understand that right now this person is “ignoring” you and you can’t have a conversation with someone who isn’t talking! I suggest you write this person a note. You might say something like this, “I know you are mad at me, but there’s been a mistake. I would like to talk to you. How about during lunch?” Then find the person at lunch time and talk about it calmly and respectfully. Hopefully, this person will listen to what you have to say and in return, you will get to hear their side of the story. (There are always at least two sides to every story.)

Friend A is having a party. She invited everyone except Friend B. Friend B found out and  she is mad at me for wanting to go. Will she ever be my friend again? Should I go? I need to go so I can be popular. Is it worth it? Of course you have the right to go to the party. But you can probably understand why Friend B is upset that a) she didn’t get invited and b) you did and c) you want to go without her! Going to the party may not be a big deal in terms of your friendship with Friend B. There is a chance that after the party, the friendship is as strong as ever. But  on the other hand, what you say about “I need to go to the part so I can be popular.” makes me wonder if the Popularity Game is more important to you than your friendship with Friend B. That’s something you may want to think about. People who dump friends because they aren’t “popular enough” often find themselves without real friends.

If you’re shy, how do you make new friends? Everyone is shy is certain situations, but I want you to know that you’ve already got what it takes to make friends. Instead of thinking of yourself as “shy” maybe it would be more helpful to say to yourself “I’m a great kid. I like people. And when I give people a chance to get to know me, they like me too.” To give yourself more opportunities to meet new people this summer, you might want to get involved in some activities you enjoy. Right from the first day, you’ve got at least one thing in common with every other person in the group. So think about what you enjoy doing (sports, art, music, photography, animation, computers, hiking, nature, science, etc.) and find out what opportunities your school or community offers for kids your age. Good luck!

If your friend starts bullying you and also lying, how can your tell them nicely that you do not want to be their friend anymore because they were mean and bullied you? You tell your friend you want to talk. You find a private place where you can have a conversation without being spied on or interrupted. Then you take some slow deep breaths to calm yourself. When you are calm, you respectfully say this, “The way you have been treating me is not the way a real friend acts. I’m taking a vacation from this friendship.” That’s it. If your friend has something to say then be respectful and listen. You might hear an apology. You might hear excuses. You might even hear “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Bottom line, you know how it has felt to be in this friendship recently. If you want “out”… then that is your right. You should never put up with disrespectful treatment from a friend or anyone else.

If your BFF tells you to do something you don’t think is right and if you don’t do it your BFF won’t be friends with you, is she worth it? Should I do it? Should I just let her go? Anyone who pressures you to do something that you know isn’t right, is not a real friend. Real friends respect your values. Real friends do not threaten you to get their own way. You already know that going against what’s right is not “worth it.” Tell your friend where you stand and see what happens. You may actually convince her that what she’s considering isn’t right for her either. In that way, you might be turning her negative peer pressure into positive peer pressure! That would be a good thing for a friend to do!

How can you tell when someone wants to be your friend and then doesn’t want to be your friend any more? and this one What if your friends with someone but they keep doing mean things to you but at other times there nice. Should we still be friends or not?

A real friend respects, accepts and appreciates you.  Friendship should be based on mutual (2-way) respect, honesty, trust, open-communication and shared values. That doesn’t change. Real friendship isn’t like a water faucet that can be turned on and off. If the person you’re talking about changes their mind about wanting to be your friend or changes the way they treat you, it may be hard to trust that person and to count on them. And without trust, friendship can not going to grow in a healthy direction.

What can you do if you had 2 groups and they didn’t get along? and this one If you had 2 groups o friends that you thought wouldn’t come together well, how would you merge your 2 groups together. It would be nice if everyone got along but you can’t make that happen by yourself. Putting yourself in the middle with the feeling that it is your job to make these 2 groups get along is just going to stress you out. It isn’t your job to make everyone happy. Not every separate group has to be “merged” into one group. The simplest solution is to spend some of your time with Group A and some other time with Group B.

If you have friends over and you don’t invite someone and they find out what do you do? That’s an awkward situation. There is no easy answer here. It sounds like you might not feel as close to the person you didn’t invite as you do to your other friends. That’s OK. That’s normal. We don’t feel equally close to everyone we know. But coming right out and saying that is unkind. When the person who wasn’t invited asked you why, all you can do is apologize and say “I’m sorry you were disappointed.” That’s the truth. I know some people might encourage you to make up a convenient excuse like “I could only invite 4 people and you were #5.” But I wouldn’t suggest that because this situation is probably going to come up again and you’ll have to keep inventing fake excuses. No fun! In life, we choose our friends and sometimes other people get left out because we don’t consider them to be close friends. Sometimes you are the one not inviting and sometimes you are the one who doesn’t get invited. It’s not always ‘fair’, but that’s the way it is. Hopefully, we can each find our own group of friends who wants to invite us places. Those are our real friends.

What if you want to be friends with a person but every time you try to be their friend they do something to make you not want to? Why would you continue trying to be friends with someone who clearly doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve? My advice, stop knocking on that door. You deserve better treatment than that! And can get it because there are plenty of other people who know how to be a good friend. Knock on those doors instead.

What do you do if your friend does something wrong, but you’re afraid your friend will get mad if you tell on him/her? If what your friend did is hurtful to other people or dangerous to himself, then it’s important for you to talk to an adult. Why? Because it sounds like your friend needs to learn that this isn’t OK. When the message comes from an adult, often kids pay more attention than if another kid tells them. And if you tell, you’re right, your friend might get mad at you… but if you stay silent when someone does something wrong, then you are allowing it to continue when you could have done something to stop it. Do the right thing!




Friendship issues from the 4th grade

March 27, 2012

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series based on anonymous, hand-written questions students gave me while I visited their school in St. Louis. If you’re new to this series and you live and/or work with 2nd-6th graders, (or you’re just interested in Social Intelligence and/or bullying, please check out Part 1 (Friendship issues from the 2nd grade)  And Part 2 (Friendship issues from the 3rd grade). Coming soon… you guessed it! Questions from the 5th grade.

My friends are at war! (Illustration © Erica DeChavez, 2013)

My friends are at war! (Illustration © Erica DeChavez, 2013-2014, from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)

My 2 best friends want to wipe each other off the face of the Earth! I hate it! It’s tearing me apart! Help! Me! When two people you care about are not getting along, it can feel like you’re in being pulled in two directions at once. I’m guessing that once upon a time, these two girls may have been close friends, but then… what happened?? A misunderstanding? A competition that led to jealousy? An unkind remark that was meant as “a joke” but not taken that way? There are so many ways a friendship can break apart. Since you care about them and would love to see them getting along, try negotiating a “peace treaty.”

Call a meeting with you and your 2 friends. Tell them how their fighting is “tearing you apart.” Tell them you want to help them get to the bottom of this feud. Then give Friend A an opportunity to speak her mind. While she’s talking, you and Friend B only get to LISTEN. No one interrupts. No one corrects. Just listen. When Friend A is done talking, it is her turn to LISTEN while Friend B speaks her mind. Again, without anyone interrupting. After Friend A and Friend B have both had their say, it is your turn. You might say: “Friend A, this is what I heard you say about why you are angry with Friend B. Friend B, this is what I heard you say about why you are angry with Friend A. What could we each do, moving forward, to help our friendship?” Good luck. I hope this helps!

Somebody is making fun of somebody else’s reading level. What should I do? You know this isn’t OK, and I’m very proud of you for putting your values into this question. It tells me that you are a person who believes that everyone should be treated with respect. Whether this is happening to you or you are watching someone else being made fun of, I encourage you to stand up to the person who is doing the teasing and speak up. Sometimes people get away with teasing because they don’t think it’s “a big deal” or they somehow think it’s “fun” or “funny.” Teasing can be very hurtful and the best way I know to have less of it, is to tell the teasers “That’s not ok.” Go for it!

I have two classmates that really annoy me sometimes. What should I do? You always have options, but being rude is never one of them! You could try to spend less time with each of these classmates. Or, the next time you feel annoyed by their behavior, you can privately, calmly and politely talk to them about it. But you know what I think might be the most interesting thing for you to do? Ask yourself a couple of questions: “Why is that behavior so ANNOYING to me?” Think about the answer. It may not be as simple as you first imagine. Another question you might ask yourself is this one: “Why might s/he be doing this? To be liked? To be respected? To be thought of as cool?” If you look at “why” people act the way they do, you might start to understand them a little better. For example, have you ever done something just to get people to notice you and to like you? We all have. So if these classmates are doing stuff just to get people to like them, instead of feeling “annoyed” by their behavior, you might actually start to understand them better and feel some compassion. (Much nicer than annoyance!)

I have a friend and he is sometimes nice to me and sometimes not. Should I be friends with him? We all have times when we’re in a bad mood and not so nice to the people around us. It’s not ok to take out your bad mood on someone else, but it happens. Hopefully not too often! But even when it does happen, after the bad mood passes, it’s a good thing for friends to talk about what happened. Have you ever told your friend how you feel when he isn’t nice to you? If you have told him and his behavior still hasn’t changed, you might want to ‘take a vacation’ from this friendship. Spend less time with him and more time with people who are nice to you. If you haven’t yet told your friend about this, talk to him. He’s not a mind-reader!

One of my friends is way too bossy! Also, if she does not get her way she is very mean to me! I sure hope you’re not suffering silently! Because, like I said in my answer to the last question: Friends aren’t mind-readers. When people aren’t treating us well, we have to let them know. Please stand up and speak up for yourself. Might your friend get angry when you tell her how you feel? Yes, there’s a chance she will! But the only way things are going to change in this friendship is if you show that you know how to be a real friend to yourself!

Why do friends make up a club and don’t invite you in? I think you probably already know the answer, but I’ll tell you any way: They didn’t invite you in because they don’t want to spend as much time with you as you want to spend with them. I understand it hurts your feelings to be left-out of their club, but you might think about it this way: “Real friends like to be with me as much as I like to be with them. If these friends aren’t inviting me to join their club, maybe they aren’t as good friends as I thought. Hmm… instead of feeling sorry for myself about their little club, maybe I should look around and try to make a new friend.”

How do you know if a so-called friend is a REAL friend? You know if you’ve got a REAL friend (vs. the Other Kind) by the way you feel when you are with that person. Do you feel safe? Do you feel respected? Do you feel totally accepted for who you are without any pressure to be someone you’re not just to get that person to like you more? A REAL friend is there for you, when you need cheering up and when you want to share some exciting news. I wrote a whole book about Real Friends vs. the Other Kind. See if it’s in your school library.

There is a girl in my class that is nice to everyone else except me. I really like her, but when I join a game with her in it, she says she is not playing and then she runs away! Also, I think she can get really tough when I want to talk to her. What should I do? Before I answer your question, I’ve got one I need to ask you: Why would you want to be friends with someone who is not nice to you?? You ask “What should I do?” Well, because I know you deserve to be treated with respect, I’d say, for the time being,  you should stop trying to get this girl to be nice to you. For whatever reason, she’s not ready to do that. Why would you continue knocking on her door when she refuses to open it with a smile and welcome you inside? Instead, I suggest you go on a New Friend Search. I’m sure you will find the kind of friend you deserve. Good luck!

My friend is friends with a very mean and rude girl and she’s stealing my friend away from me. What should I do? Someone can “steal” a pencil or a book, but I don’t really believe anyone can “steal” a friend away from you. If your friend chooses to spend more of her time with this other girl then that’s your friend’s choice. I understand you don’t like it because you miss the special close one-on-one relationship you two used to have, but she has the freedom to spend time with other people. Talk to her about it. See if there is a way you can schedule playtime just with her. And while she’s busy, think about what fun things you can be doing, either on your own or with other friends.

My bff hates me because she wanted to do something really bad and I said no because I knew she was gonna get caught. So she did this thing and she’s not my friend ’cause I said no. But she got away with it, so I’m totally clueless. I’m very proud of you for not letting your friend pressure you into doing something that you knew wasn’t OK. That tells me that you know how to make healthy choices, even when friends are pushing and pulling you in other directions. I think your bff is angry because you didn’t go along with her idea. She probably knows that you were right in your decision but she can’t yet admit that she was wrong. So instead, she’s pushing you away with her anger. Give her some time to cool off. Hopefully, you two will come back together. But here’s a word of warning: if she has any more idea to do things that don’t feel right to you, think about whether she shares your values. It can hard to have a real lasting friendship with someone who doesn’t share your values.

UPDATE October 3, 2014: The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA is now available in print and on Kindle (the ebook can be read on any device, your mobile phone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle reader app). Visit for an excerptreviews, and to order your copy.


Friendship issues from the 2nd grade

March 12, 2012

A few weeks ago, I visited a school in St. Louis where the word “respect” is much more than a poster on the wall. (I love it when that’s the case!) Walking through the front door I sensed that social and emotional learning at this school was the real deal. Throughout the day, I presented five separate grade-specific sessions. And let me tell you, those 2nd –  6th graders were some of the most engaged students I’ve met in the dozen or so years I’ve been doing this stuff. The kids eagerly took my tools for dealing with friendship issues and in return, gave me their hand-written, anonymous questions to take home and ponder. I promised I’d address each one, right here, in my blog, so they could log on, with their parents, and have a serious conversation about what’s going on in their lives and what it means to be a real friend vs. the other kind.

Because I also teach the importance of keeping agreements, I’m starting today with part 1 of a 5 part series in which I will respectfully answer each of the thoughtful questions I received from those St. Louis students. See Part 2 Friendship Issues from the 3rd grade. and Part 3: Friendship Issues from the 4th grade

(NOTE: If you are one of the students who wrote a question and you don’t find yours in your grade’s blog post, I may have put it in the wrong place by mistake. Look for it in another blog in this series.)

My best bud lost to me in a state capital contest and hasn’t liked me since. What should I do?

Sometimes it’s hard to lose. Maybe once or twice you have felt angry at someone who beat you at a game. I know I have! It sounds like your friend may be feeling that way since you won the contest. I suggest you go to your friend, maybe at recess or lunch. Smile, and say, “Let’s be friends again” then invite your friend to play or to sit with you. See what happens!

What do I do if someone is only trying to play with my friend, not me? And I tell her “May I play with my friend?” and she says ‘No.” It sounds like you and this person are having a little tug-of-war! But instead of pulling on either end of a rope, you are pulling on your friend! This person does not ‘own’ your friend, but neither do you. If you and this person and your friend can not play well all together, then suggest you talk to your friend and set up a time to play with just her. You may have to take turns playing with her. And during the time when your friend is playing with the other person, you find someone else to play with.

What can I do if someone makes someone be a certain thing in a game? Make believe games are a lot of fun, but it’s not so much fun if one person gets a little bossy and tries to “make” other people be certain things they don’t want to be. Of course, if you’ve never told the person that you aren’t comfortable with all of his/her ideas, then it’s time to speak up! The next time this happens in a game, you might say, “No. I don’t want to be that. Instead, I’m going to be______.” Try it and good luck!

How do I find out if people like me, cause I want to be nice to them? I think you have this “being nice” stuff a little bit backwards. We aren’t “nice” to people just because they like us and we want to reward them! We should be nice to people is because we can be! Also it feels good to be nice to people and makes the world a better place! And you know something else? When you are nice to people, they are more likely to want to be your friend because you’ve shown that you are a kind and friendly person. So don’t worry about whether certain people like you. Just be nice and see what happens!

What should I do if somebody retaliates for something you did not do? You do your best to tell them that you didn’t do the thing that they’re blaming you for. If they won’t listen or won’t believe you, you should talk to an adult about this. Hopefully a parent or teacher can help you and this other person get to the bottom of this misunderstanding.

What should I do if someone tattles on my friend? You don’t need to “do” anything except to take yourself out of the middle of this one. It really doesn’t have anything to do with you. If your friend did something that wasn’t OK and got in trouble for it, then your friend is the one that needs to set things right. As for the person who “tattled”, well, honestly, I’m not so sure what that word means. If it means, “Someone was mean to me and I told the teacher about it.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that is the right thing to do!

What if somebody pushes me into another person? If it was on purpose (and not accident) then you apologize to the person who got bumped and you talk to the person who pushed you. You might say, “If you’re angry about something, let’s talk. But don’t push me.”

What if somebody promises to sit with me at lunch but doesn’t? Sometimes people forget their promises and they need to be reminded. And sometimes people make promises when they really don’t mean to keep them. If this person is a real friend, then set up another time to sit together at lunch. If this person never seems to want to sit with you at lunch, I suggest you find some other people who DO want to sit with you!

What should I do when people give me the silent treatment because they don’t want to be my friend? I know that it hurts when people you want to be friends with act like they don’t want you as a friend. You can’t force someone to be your friend, but you can always remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect. Giving someone the silent treatment is disrespectful. If someone does this to you, I suggest you do two things 1) tell them “STOP. You’re being cruel.” and 2) look around you and find some kinder people to hang out with.

What should I do if no one likes me? I wonder how you can be so sure that “no one” likes you. I’m sure that’s not right! But I can tell that you believe it and it’s making you feel sad and lonely. You need at least one good friend you can count on. And it sounds like you need some help finding that friend. Please talk to your parents about these feelings and talk to your teacher. Tell them “I need a friend.” and that will be the start of something better.

My friend says “I can do this and you don’t have the powers to.” What should I do? Invent some super powers of your own! It all starts with your wonderfully powerful imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do!


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