When I take a trip down middle school memory lane, I seem to stumble right by a frenemy or two.
I know I’m not alone. Most adult women I talk with are still troubled by the memory of a mean girl from middle school who pretended to be a friend when she needed something, but would throw a friend under the social bus as soon as a better opportunity came by.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I want every child know what I wish I had known then: that they are never stuck in a friendship with someone who makes them feel “not good enough.” Here is the advice I give to the young teens – girls AND boys – in Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit to help them determine a true friend vs. a frenemy and how they can get out of a friendship that isn’t very friendly.
A frenemy is someone who makes themselves feel better by making you feel worse, under the guise of being your friend.
The most drama-free way to exit a bad friendship is to be unavailable whenever a frenemy asks you to do something. It’s okay to politely decline an invitation. Done with confidence and kindness, you won’t feel any without backlash.
The guidelines are:
Do not make up lies
Give an honest and believable reason why you can’t hang out (ex: I have to spend time with my mom today)
Repeat yourself until the other person accepts your answer
During the tween and teen years, when kids are still figuring out who they are, friendships are fairly fluid. You may decide in a few months that you want to try hanging out again. It’s easier to mend a friendship when the breakup hinged on being unavailable than when it involved a major confrontation.
Michelle Icard is creator of the middle school social leadership curriculum Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit, and is the mom of two tweens. Please visit her parenting website www.MichelleintheMiddle.com.