A few weeks ago, someone asked me a great question:
“What do I do if I don’t like my friend’s kid?”
Here are four suggestions I have.
First, remind yourself that it is perfectly okay to not like someone, even a kid. I’m willing to bet that most people reading this have, at some point, met a kid they didn’t like. Guess what? We like some people and we don’t like others. It’s a quick response that you probably can’t really control. And you don’t even have to like everybody to be a nice person. You may not choose your gut response to someone, but you can choose how you interact with them. So you can be polite or even kind without liking someone, and I want to validate for you that what you’re experiencing is normal.
Second, if your friend is important to you, you need to accept the fact that something that is important to them may end up as part of your relationship. You don’t get to ignore new aspects of your friend’s identity; that makes them into someone that you can pick and choose parts of to be friends with. That ignores the beauty of who they are as a whole person. But, you can certainly experience a grieving process in accepting that you dislike a new aspects of who your friend is and what their world is like. Understanding that and making acceptance your goal, with grief as a reasonable possibility, can make the transition a healthy one for your relationship with your friend.
Third, you might wonder if there’s any space left for the old version of your friend, the one you’ve known and loved for years, now that they have this particular kid. Sometimes making space for new things can protect old things. If you want to engage with your friend about something other than their kid, but they want to talk about their kid, you might create two distinct lines of conversation, one about their kid and one about just the two of you. For example, you might text them asking for a recent picture of the little one AND text them asking about a tv show you both watch. Or, if you visit them, you might say you want to have a tea party with the child AND have a night out with the parent. This strategy gives your friend space to invite you into the new stuff but still highlights and gives opportunity for one-on-one adult bonding.
Fourth, I encourage you to leave the door open for change. You might not enjoy the limited interactions you can have with a helpless newborn, but someday that baby will be able to play peekaboo with you and might become more entertaining. You might dislike the constant distraction of a toddler who seems bent on doing every dangerous thing known to humanity, but someday that toddler will understand what is safe and what is not (and may even be a lot of fun at an amusement park or in a paintball arena). You might struggle with a super talkative young child, but know that as they grow up and develop interests in other people, you might come to enjoy their conversation. Children change quickly, and though there’s a chance you’ll never like your friend’s kid, there’s also a chance you someday will.
What strategies have helped you when you’ve disliked a friend’s kid? Comment below!