Probably. It happens all the time in middle school.
Your child needs to know that they are never stuck in a friendship with someone who makes them feel “not good enough.”
First, your child may want to try talking it to out. It’s important to use “I statements” rather than accusing the other person of wrongdoing. Instead of saying “You always hang out with other people and you don’t try to include me” your child might say “I feel left out sometimes and I wish we could hang out more.” An honest conversation about personal feelings that doesn’t put anyone on the defensive may work toward patching up problems.
If a friendship is irreparable, or if your child feels endangered, your child may decide fixing it isn’t an option and she may want to exit the friendship altogether. Let her know that even though it can be difficult to leave a friendship, it’s not a bad thing to do. In fact, it’s the right thing to do if it protects her feelings of self-worth.
The most drama-free way to exit a friendship is to become unavailable to someone. In middle school, kids tend to think that if they are invited to do something they have to say yes. Let your child know how she can politely decline an invitation without hurting someone’s feelings.
The guidelines are:
Do not make up lies.
Give an honest and believable reason why you can’t hang out.
Repeat yourself until the other person accepts your answer.
So it would go like this:
Kate: Let’s hang out after school. Tell your parents you’re coming to my house to study and then we can go hang out at the mall.
Emma: I can’t. I told my mom I’d spend time with her. (Or, I have to clean my room, study, help my sister, etc.)
Kate: Hang out with your mom another time! C’mon, don’t ditch me.
Emma: I’m sorry. I can’t today. Like I said, I told my mom I’d spend time with her.
Kate: You’re seriously picking your mom over the mall? You can hang out with your mom anytime. Fine, I’ll come to your house and we’ll spend 20 minutes with your mom, then we’ll go to the mall.
Emma: I really can’t. I told my mom I would spend time with her today and I need to do that. Have fun at the mall. I’ve got to go now. Bye!
Notice that Emma didn’t lie. She didn’t change her story to get Kate off her back. She didn’t exaggerate until Kate thought her reason was good enough. She wasn’t mean to Kate. She simply repeated her answer until Kate backed off. Not much drama can come of this. This exit strategy is an important skill for middle schoolers because it teaches them that “no means no” and that they can trust themselves to set boundaries.
If your child is comfortable using “I statements” she can be more direct, but this is difficult for anyone to do, especially young people. It may be more important to be unavailable than to help the other person fix perceived flaws. Plus, young people and their relationship are so fluid, and they change so quickly during these years. Your child may decide in a few months that she wants to try hanging out again. It’s easier to mend a middle school friendship when the breakup hinged on being unavailable than when it involved major discord.