Not Our Problems to Solve:: Adolescent Social Struggles are Normal


As moms, we want to solve all our kids’ problems. But maybe their problems are not our problems to solve?

We pull up to the store to grab the milk I’d forgotten to buy at the grocery store that morning and my thirteen-year-old spots four of her friends hanging out. She ducks down in the seat and complains, “They always hang out after summer school, and they never invite me.” 

My eleven-year-old complains for the umpteenth time that she doesn’t have as many friends as Kate. And when I tell Anna that it’s great to have a couple close friends, Kate says she doesn’t really have close friends.

I worry about both of them. Is Kate being excluded from things? What should I do about it? Does Anna not have enough friends? What should I do about it? How can I help them solve their problem?

Whenever my friends and I get together, we ponder our children’s social situations. What should we do?

I think of all the things I’ve learned since going through the misery of middle school myself. I think of all the things I’ve learned as an adult. I think, with all these things I now know, that I can save my kids from the misery I went through as an adolescent and teen.

Yesterday I got a text from a friend worrying about her daughter’s lack of friends. After expressing my similar fears, I asked if she thought it might be helpful to invite other girls over sometimes. And then thinking about the text while driving to the grocery store, where I’ll probably forget yet again to buy the milk, it dawns on me that these things are not our problems to solve.

I could be the best mom in the world, the most well-adjusted person that ever walked the face of the earth, and my kids would still have to go through things like this. And they need to go through things like this. It’s healthy. It’s how they learn and grow.

Not only can I not rescue them from some of these things and solve their problems, but it wouldn’t be in their best interest.

I wouldn’t expect math to come easily for my kids, just because I have learned how to do math. I wouldn’t want my kids not to occasionally struggle with their math homework, because that struggle leads them to learn to problem solve and to become better at math. So, why do I think my kids can or should be spared occasional social struggles?problems to solve

Yes, we want to support our kids. We want home to be a safe, loving spot for them to come and escape the social challenges of the outside world for a while. And, yes, we want to do everything we can to encourage our children to be kind and to be the best people they can be. And, if our kids have problems beyond what would be considered normal, then we should step in and seek help to support them.

But, these normal instances of social confusion, of finding their place, of making friends and changing friends: our kids need to go through them.

We can’t solve these problems for our kids. Our jobs are to support our kids, to love our kids, to guide our kids to be the best people they can be, but not to solve these problems for our kids. These problems are like their social homework. Over time, they will learn and they will grow.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here