So, in helping my teenage son work through some issues with his friends, I’ve come to realize I need to do a little cleaning house myself.
My son is very kind to his friends and enjoys going out with them, and often times, he pays for their lunch, for example. However, later, we begin to notice that he’s the only one who has done this three weeks in a row. When he texts them, they don’t respond, and he knows they are online because he sees them clear as day on social media.
Therefore, his therapist and I are working with him to be sure he’s not taken advantage of and not used. We’re helping him recognize his true friends, and he’s feeling better because he’s not wondering why his “friends” use him, why his “friends” don’t chat with him unless “they” feel like chatting, etc type matters.
So, of course, one important key in parenting (at least for this household) is my son generally doesn’t follow our advice alone just because we verbalize it, but tends to follow it more when he sees that we are doing the same. When I give him advice about a friend who only talks with him on text when the friend wants to talk, and this friend doesn’t care if my kid is wanting to chat a bit one day, and my son says to me, “Well, you allow ______ to do the same thing to you,” that’s when I know it’s time to do some heavy lifting and dump said toxic “friend.” I’ll admit that it is extremely difficult to sever ties when you think you’re talking about potential lifelong relationships – fun, laughter, shared tears, lifting one another up when the other is down – but sometimes, enough is enough.
I’m working on my, “Goodbye, You Hurt Me But I Forgive You,” letters that my therapist recommended writing, which remain with me until I burn them and let the baggage go. Some are for people long gone. Some are for people still around physically, but not emotionally and spiritually.
And it should be included, this kind of toxicity affects both mental and physical health, to be sure.
It’s heartbreaking, but I’ll survive. I’ve survived much worse, after all.