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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 8th grade Part 1

May 19, 2014

Since September I’ve been doing Skype in the Classroom sessions about Real Friends vs the Other Kind with 3rd-10th graders. (Even did one in Croatia!) Today I beamed into an 8th grade class in Philadelphia. Here are some of those students’ questions along with my answers. I’m sharing them to let you know that you are not alone in dealing with any of this stuff.

Student: What would you do if you had a friend you couldn’t trust but you were trying to give them a chance?

We're just a bunch of kids learning to be good friends

We’re just a bunch of kids trying to figure out this friendship thing

It’s good to give someone a second chance. We all make mistakes, right? Sometimes we’re in a bad mood and we’re rude. Sometimes we’re trying to impress other people and we end up hurting a friend. Before you give someone another chance, though, you have to talk about what happened. You can say, “What you did made me feel like I can’t trust you. I want to give you another chance, but first tell me what the heck was going on when you did that?!” A real friend will stop and think. They’ll say something like this: “I’m really sorry. This is why I did it. I promise I’m not going to do that again.” Then you can say, “Cool” and you move forward in the friendship.

But if your friend says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” They’re not taking responsibility for what they did. Even though you may want to trust them again, you haven’t really cleared up the problem. They don’t seem to understand what they did and why it wasn’t OK. Chances are good, they will do it again. If you still want to give them another chance, proceed with caution.

Student: If you’re friends with someone and you know that they’re talking about you, what should you do?

You can’t pretend that you don’t know it, so you have to talk about it. But watch your attitude. If I’m angry and I go my friend and say: “Hey, I heard that you’re talking about me. What’s up with that?!” your friend will feel attacked and will defend him or herself. They may say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when they actually know exactly what you’re talking about. Or they may be innocent and ask, “Who told you that?! It’s not true!” Maybe the person who told you was lying because they wanted to mess up your friendship. Bottom line here, if you need to talk to a friend about something important, get the facts first and don’t come out fighting. If you know the truth, calm down and say, “I know you’ve been talking about me and it makes me feel like you’re not a real friend.” Then you close your mouth and you listen to what they have to say. Afterwards, decide what’s right for you to do in this friendship.

Student: Have you ever felt like if you didn’t have a friend you weren’t like… normal?

There were times when I didn’t have a real friend. (That’s the only kind worth having.) It’s OK not to have friends if you know that you are friends with yourself. Being cool with who you are lets you be cool with spending time on your own. That’s way better than hanging out with people you don’t trust or respect. Not having a friend can be lonely and sometimes you might wonder, “What’s wrong with me? How come I don’t have at least one person who I’m really close with?” There’s nothing “wrong” with you. It might just be that the people around you are not a good match for you and for the kind of friend you are looking for. It may be that you’ve got high standards for yourself and for the people you call your friends. That’s a good thing.

If you aren’t finding real friends at school, look outside of school. At an afterschool club. Or a youth group. Or at the park. Just talk to people. I used to go to the library a lot when I was in middle and high school. There were kids there from other schools and I got to be friends with some of them.

If you need new friends or more friends… first you need to know what a real friend is. Make a list of what makes a Real Friend. Use it as your “shopping list.” For example, respect is a really important trait in a friend. You may see someone and say to yourself, “Is this person respectful? I don’t know him or her yet, but do I like what I see in the way this person treats others? Would I want a friend who treats me that way?” Think about what you’re looking for and keep your standards high, for yourself and for other people.

I hope this helps, and tune in next time, for Part 2 of Friendship Issues from the 8th grade. Til then, be a good friend to yourself and others.



“My friend’s not acting like a friend!”

May 5, 2014

The kind of friends you can be yourself with

The kind of friends you can be yourself with

Since 1997 a big chunk of my email questions have been variations of…

  • What do I do if my friend is nice to me sometimes and sometimes mean to me?
  • What do I do if my friend is talking behind my back but then when I confront her about it she says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about?
  • What do I do if my friend always has to have things his way and when he doesn’t, he gets kinda mean?”

This morning I did a Skype in the Classroom session with 14 and 15 year olds in Croatia. The topic: Real Friends vs the Other Kind. These kids were polite, respectful and appreciative of our time together. Their English was very impressive! What also impressed me were the questions they asked: thoughtful, honest, revealing. Even though they were so far away, they had many of the same concerns and confusions about friendship as the kids who’ve been emailing me for 17 years.  Doesn’t matter if the letter writer is 10 or 19. Doesn’t matter if s/he lives in Detroit, London, Singapore or Zaire. It often boils down to this: “Why is my friend not acting like a friend and what can I do about it?”

We each have to learn the difference between a real friend and the other kind. Sometimes those lessons come with a lot of hurt feelings. Maybe we’d suffer less if, when we are young, we could get help setting concrete standards for behavior in a friendship. Parents and teachers could do a much better job helping us understand that when we pay attention to how we feel when we are with people we can trust, then we will know what it’s like to feel safe, respected and appreciated in a friendship. Trusted adults should also help kids understand that friendship is a 2-way street. We have to hold ourselves to the same high standard of real friendship that we hold other people to. And if they are unable or unwilling to treat us the way a real friend should, then we have the right (and the obligation to ourselves) to take a vacation from that friendship and reach out to other people who share our values.

How do we teach kids the difference between real friends and the other kind?” Watch my 3 minute video answer on Vidoyen.





Friendship issues from the 3rd grade

March 19, 2012

This is Part 2 of a 5-part series based on students’ questions I received while visiting a school in St. Louis in early March. Missed the 1st part (Friendship issues from the 2nd grade)? Here it is. And please check back next week for Questions from the 4th grade.

What should I do if someone is being mean to me and not to anybody else? Not everyone knows when they’re being ‘mean.’ Sometimes people feel so angry or jealous they do and say things without thinking about other people’s feelings. That’s why it’s important for you to speak up whenever you are being treated disrespectfully. Even if you’re not the only one who’s being treated this way, you should still speak up. Show that you have respect for yourself. If his/her behavior toward you doesn’t change for the better, talk to your teacher. With the teacher’s help, you and this other person may be able to make the peace.

My bff twin bosses me. She wants to make me believe in something I know isn’t real. It’s very annoying. What should I do? Sometimes people who have an active imagination just automatically try to get other people to see things their way in a game or on the playground. Your bff may not be trying to “boss” you around. She may just be trying to get you to play a game in a certain way. If you’re not having fun always doing things her way, then you should tell her. And if that doesn’t change anything, it might be a good idea to spend time with friends who you feel more comfortable with.

One of my friends (A) called my other friend (B) “smart” and not me. Friend A had a playdate with Friend B (and not me) and the next day Friend A only talked about Friend B’s pet. It made me sad. What should I do? It can hurt if you feel like a friend you were once very close to is starting to like other people more than she likes you. That’s what the emotion jealousy is about. You may feel like you are in competition and that only one person can win. But that’s not necessarily the truth. I suggest you talk to Friend A and let her know how you’ve been feeling. Maybe she doesn’t even know! When we let our friends know how we feel, we can often work things out. And when we open our hearts, we can include more people in our friendship circle.

What if nobody want to play with me? I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. That tells me some kids in your class may not have been as friendly as they could be. I’m also thinking that there are probably some kids in your class who don’t realize that you are looking for friends. You should definitely talk to your teacher about this. Maybe he or she can give you some ideas for making new friends. Also, if your teacher knows that you are feeling lonely at school, s/he can do something about it by talking with the whole class about what it means to be a real friend and to make everyone feel welcome. I hope this helps.

Why does my friend get her way, usually? If the same person in a friendship seems to get her way most of the time, it may be because the other person has allowed that to happen. For example, if I always say, “Let’s go on the swings” and you always agree (even if you’re bored with the swings) then I’ll think you love the swings as much as I do. But that’s not the truth! Suppose you’d much rather climb on the climbing structure. If you never say what you want, how am I supposed to know? The next time your friend has a suggestion that you don’t agree with, you might say something like this, “I don’t feel like doing that today. How about if we do your idea tomorrow and my idea today?” That’s called compromise… and it is a good way to keep a friendship healthy and strong.

What do I do if two people go against one of my friends? I’m not exactly sure what you mean when you say “go against one of my friends” but it doesn’t sound too friendly. And it sounds like you feel you ought to do something to help your friend. Whenever you get that feeling that “something isn’t fair here,” pay attention to it. You have the power to stand up for anyone who is being treated unfairly. I hope you do that! That’s part of what it means to be a real friend. Also, it will make you feel proud of yourself for doing the right thing.

What do I do when someone is playing a game and doesn’t include me? Sometimes a game is set and it doesn’t work to let more people into it. (Like 9 people on a baseball team. That’s all that can play at one time.) If that’s the game then the people who don’t want to include you are not trying to be hurtful. But sometimes people who want to leave you out may be trying to hurt your feelings. If it feels like someone (or a group of people) are always trying to exclude you, then you have some choices: a) you can talk with them about it b) you can talk with a teacher about it c) you can look for other people to play with or d) you can feel sorry for yourself and waste a lot of your play time being in a bad mood (I would not recommend choice ‘d’). But you are not powerless. So think about what you’re trying to do and get some help, if you need it.

What should I do if my two friends say that I said something but I did not and I said I did not. It can be really frustrating when you are telling the truth and people do not believe you! I’m not really sure what you can ‘do’.  No one has control over what other people say or think or believe. You can continue to tell them “I did not say that.” but there is no guarantee that they will believe you. Real friends tell each other the truth and real friends listen to each other. When they make a mistake, they apologize. Real friends treat each other with respect. It sounds like these friends are not being respectful to you. If they continue in this way, it is going to be hard for you to relax and feel comfortable around them. I don’t know why they refuse to believe you, but if it continues, I suggest you take a break from this friendship and if they ask “Why?” tell them “I need a friend who will believe me when I tell them the truth.”

Nobody wants to sit with me at lunch, not even my best friend. What should I do? Everyone deserves to have a friend to sit with at lunch! If your best friend doesn’t want to sit with, I’m wondering what makes this person your “best friend”? This doesn’t sound like “best friend” behavior. It also sounds like you don’t know why your friend is treating you this way. I think you should ask him/her “Why don’t you want to sit with me?” See if you can get to the bottom of this, on your own or with help from an adult.

What should I do when my friend does not treat me nice when I treat them nice? A friendship is a two-way street. Niceness and respect and all the other good things in friendship have to flow in both directions. When only one person is being nice and the other person isn’t, well, that friendship is in trouble! The best thing you can do is to be a real friend to yourself. What do I mean by that? I mean, talk to this friend and let him/her know that you don’t like the way s/he has been treating you. (Give an example of some of the ‘not nice’ behavior you are talking about). You might also say, “When you act this way, it feels like you aren’t my friend. So what’s going on?” Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what your friend has to say. Talking about friendship problems doesn’t always fix things, but it’s a very good place to start!

What should I do if somebody is pushing me around? The next time it happens you should hold up your hand, look the person straight in the eye and say, “Stop! Don’t do that.” If they don’t stop, talk to your teacher. It’s the responsibility of the school to make sure that every student is treated with respect. If this pushing around stuff continues, tell your parents and ask them for help. It’s your parents’ responsibility to make sure that you are safe. They can’t do their job if they don’t know what’s going on. Talk to them. They can help.



Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 7:10 pm
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