Playground politics: Our children’s argument has damaged our friendship

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you


Playground politics: Our children's argument has damaged our friendship

2 minute read

Q. I’m friends with the mum of my son’s best buddy at school, and we used to meet regularly. However, there was an issue between the boys, both seven, and she spoke to the school without talking to me first, which resulted in my son being punished.

I am annoyed that she did not approach me in the first instance. The boys have made up, but we’re avoiding each other. I miss her, but I don’t think I can trust her. What can I do? Name supplied

A. I’d love to see ‘how to have a difficult conversation’ on the school curriculum. Your friend’s fear of the tricky chat was so great that she didn’t talk to you at all; you don’t know how to say you’re annoyed, and both of you are struggling over what happens next.

It’s easy to get stuck on analysing facts, feelings and meaning – a way of putting off the moment when you have to smile, take a breath and speak. Could you say: ‘I know the boys have made up and I want us to. When’s a good time to talk?’

The most useful thing to practise ahead of time is understanding yourself: how would you describe the chain of events: how did you feel, what is the deeper meaning for you – is it about motherhood, friendship or your relationship with the school?

If you have self-awareness, you can create a space where your friend can share her answers to the same questions. The aim is not to prove your point, but to understand hers. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, £17.99), says the main reason we struggle to listen is the fear of having our minds changed. It might feel like a risk to bring conflict into the open, but leaving things unspoken is an even quicker route to losing trust, as you’ve found. 

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Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

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