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When Teens Fight

Scenario: Your best friend has a kid the same age as yours ... and right now they can't stand each other.

It happens. "One of the ways that women make friends—not much unlike taking a cute puppy for a walk in the park—is through their kids," says psychologist Irene S. Levine, creator of The Friendship Blog and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. And mom friends are great, because everyone needs friendships, and it helps when your best buds can relate to what you're going through in life (teenage drama, for example).

"Don't let the drama of the kids be the elephant in the room." - psychologist Irene S. Levine

However, you can't guarantee your kids will stay friends forever. "It's natural that friendships change as kids get older and begin to define themselves. The best friend from elementary and middle school may lose her appeal in high school. Or the friend from nursery school may now be a competitive jock while your teen has become a bookworm," Levine explains. "It's important to remember that most friendships, even very good ones, aren't forever and that teenage friendships are particularly dynamic because it's a time of such rapid growth, physically and emotionally," she says. And, even if they do stay close, we all know that teenage BFFs can have some major altercations.

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So what happens to your adult friendship when your kids fight? Or when they're just plain over it? Here are a few tips.

Draw a line. "If your teens are at odds, and the friendship is important to you, you may need to establish boundaries between their friendship and yours," says Levine. Heck, this may be your chance to branch out and do some things that aren't dictated by your kids. (Girls' night, anyone?)

Talk about it. "Don't let the drama of the kids be the elephant in the room. Talk openly about this issue that has affected your friendship," Levine says. Because no matter how much you distance your friendships, they're still your kids, and what hurts them hurts you—at least a little. Still, Levine recommends keeping your discussion of the conflict to "general terms" and agreeing to let your teens work out their own problems.

Talk to your kids, too. "Let your teens know that you intend to remain friends despite their drama," says Levine. See what's happening there? You're not only keeping a friend, you're setting a good example.

Support your kid. Keep your nose out of your teen's battles, but don't ignore the issue. (There's a difference.) "It's essential that you be a supportive parent, and that is probably your first responsibility," Levine advises. "Be a supportive listener to your teen. Give her some strategies for resolving the problem, but let her know that she has to straighten out the problem on her own."

It's also important to make sure your teen knows that she gets to pick her own friends. Let her know it's OK to take a break from the friendship if it isn't working out. "Your teen may be holding on so as not to disappoint you," warns Levine.

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But don't diss your friend's kid. This is incredibly important if you want to keep your friend. Can't stand her child at the moment? Keep your lips sealed. Or, let's say she opens up and bad-mouths her own kid. Do not agree. (Even if you agree.)

Side note: Don't diss your own child either, even if she's being ridiculous.

Take a break if you need it. Teen drama can be pretty all-consuming. "If the tension has been very intense, the moms might need a brief sabbatical, away from each other, to cool down before they can resume their friendships," says Levine. This doesn't mean you have to ditch the friendship all together. Just give yourselves a breather.

Be a little selfish. You absolutely, positively need friends in your life. So make them a priority. "Time is finite," says Levine, "and some parents make the mistake of deferring their own friendships for the sake of their kids. Having friends makes us better wives and mothers—in addition to being happier persons. It's vitally important that we make and nurture our adult friendships." Enough said.

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