Childline: The problems young people face when friendships break down

Friendships are a huge part of growing up. They help young people learn about social dynamics and form their support groups, but they can also be fraught with issues for a whole number of reasons.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 4:00 pm
When friendships break down between young people, they can create difficult times and bring about potential isolation. Picture by PA

At Childline we hear a lot from children and young people about their friendships. A lot of the time this is positive, where children talk about how their friends are supporting them through difficult times, but we also do hear about friendships breaking down.

One young person said: “When a new girl started at my primary school in year one we became best friends, and things were going fine up until year eight.

“She started calling me fat, ugly and stupid and would criticise me for everything, so after a year I cut her out of my life completely.

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“I also lost all my other friends because they’re all scared of her. Six months have now passed and I still cry myself to sleep over it, and I still can’t get the things she said about me out of my head.”

Although we recognise that every friendship has its own dynamic, we always remind young people that friends should never put them down; make fun of their religion, culture or sexuality; put them in danger or make them feel unsafe.

Sometimes when a friendship breaks down this is only temporary and, over time, the friendship will be repaired. Occasionally, falling out is much more serious – perhaps where one party isn’t acting like a good friend.

This can be really difficult for children to deal with, and we often advise them to think about why their friend may have acted in the way they did, perhaps find out if their friend is feeling ok, and to be assertive in telling that person how they have made them feel.

We know this isn’t always possible, though, and that sometimes a friendship ends because they have drifted apart.

For those young people in this situation, it may be a case of accepting that the friendship has run its course, and focus on establishing new friendships with others.

Of course, where a child is being bullied by a former friend it is always advisable for them to tell someone they trust – whether that is a parent, carer or teacher.

They can also talk to our counsellors at Childline about how they feel, whether that is over the phone or online.

For free confidential advice and support about any worries, children and young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or