26/11/2012 10:25 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

How To Avoid Falling Out With Friends Over Your Children

How to avoid falling out over the kids Alamy

Falling out with a friend over your kids is one parenting scenario that few of us give much thought to - until it happens.

Yet one third of us have fallen out with a friend - usually because we've taken our child's side in an argument or because we've voiced concern or criticism about a friend's parenting.

That certainly rings true for mum of three, Alison, who fell out with her best friend after a holiday together.

"It seemed like a fun idea but she was very neurotic and would shriek if her son went near a bin; everything was about her child and it drove me up the wall," Alison explains.


I wish I'd kept my mouth shut but I snapped, and said a few things about her parenting, like: 'No wonder he doesn't eat his meals if you let him snack all day.'


"I wonder if she might have had post-natal depression, and in hindsight I wish we had been more open with one another but it's easy to be wise after the event."

Carole, a mum of three, was recently dumped by her friend for not inviting her friend's child to her daughter's fourth birthday party.

"It wasn't malicious, I genuinely didn't see why my friendships should dictate my daughter's party playmates. Big mistake. When her child asked mine for an invite she simply told her she didn't have one, and she burst into tears.

"Her mum was understandably very annoyed. But she phoned me at work and proceeded to rant about how horrible I had been, saying she would have nothing more to do with me if she and her husband weren't welcome in my home.

"It took several weeks (and several public snubs) before I plucked up the courage to try to sort it all out. We cleared the air but it still destroyed the friendship. Such is life. But I'll be much more careful about who I leave out of my youngest's party invites next week!"

Fall-outs between friends can also happen without explanation, as Ellen, also a mum of three, discovered when she fell foul of a fellow mum, following several years of friendship. Her son is blissfully unaware of the dynamic between his best friend's parents and his mum and dad, but Ellen worries about the future.

"The situation is so volatile that my husband and I can't even be polite or civil to these people, which makes me dread the school run. I'm very anxious about seeing them and have heard some terrible things that have been said about me.


I almost feel like I'm a kid being bullied at school.


"I deliberately go late to minimise the chance of seeing them, but the school is so small that I can't avoid them forever. Yet the thought of seeing them on a regular basis for the next few years makes me feel sick."

For some parents, avoiding your former friend at the school gates is out of the question, and more drastic action is required.

Father of six, Andrew, ended up moving his children to a new school when what began as a minor fall-out between the kids in the playground escalated to hostility from the other child's parents and culminated with the police being called.

Andrew's son is now very happy in his new school, but Andrew says he learned valuable lessons about how to avoid this situation happening again:

"True friends will try to resolve things without back-stabbing and lies. At the first sign of trouble, speak to the family in a neutral place and keep it friendly. If that doesn't work involve the school and demand action. Always keep the teachers in the loop and keep the pressure on for action to be taken."

It seems we parents can be a touchy bunch - but is there anything you can do to avoid falling out with friends over your kids? And if it happens, is there a quick way to restore order to everyone's relationships?

Yes, says Kitty Hagenbach, a child psychologist and part of the pioneering Babiesknow parenting programme.

"As parents, we can get overly upset when our children are criticised or seen in a poor light, and we tend to be subjective about our children's feelings," Kitty explains.

Kitty advocates speaking up honestly and learning to express your true feelings at the time: "Try saying something like 'I feel very hurt by the way you have spoken to Sophie, and I imagine she feels upset too. Please don't speak to her in this way.' We can stay in healthy relationship once we stop blaming others and 'own' our emotions."

Ultimately any relationship breakdown is difficult, but sometimes we can gain something even from the loss of a friendship. Alison agrees: "I learned from that disastrous holiday that all children are wonderful and awful all at once, and I'm much more tolerant of other peoples' children than I was back then," she explains. "But if I go away with other families now I always insist on our own space."

More on Parentdish: When is it OK to discipline someone else's child?

How good a friendship must it be before you can criticise someone's child. Or is it always a no-no? Tell us what you think.