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Son mistreated as he and friend drift apart

DEAR AMY: I need advice on a friendship issue involving my 14-year-old son. My son has been friends with a boy since fourth grade. Our families have been friends, and my husband and I think the parents are good people. The boys go to school together and we are carpooling this year. The friend has changed. In the car, he is absorbed in his phone and barely grunts hello. When he gets to school, he hurries off and doesn't walk with my son. He makes plans on the phone with other kids, obviously excluding my son (who is sitting right there), and later brags about how much fun it was. In my opinion, he is either deliberately trying to hurt my son, or clueless about his actions. The boys do talk some in the two classes they have together. They eat lunch with the same group, but it's obvious they are growing apart. My son's priority is doing well in school; the other boy is more concerned with trying to be popular. I would like to end the carpool arrangement, but it might make the declaration that this friendship is over, instead of letting the boys work it out (or end the friendship on their own). The other option would be to stick it out until the end of the year, and then let the boys go their separate ways. What do you suggest?

-- Carpool Mom

DEAR MOM: I realize how hard it can be for a parent to witness this sort of dynamic, but your son should be in the driver's seat in terms of his own relationships, even if his choice confuses or frustrates you and even if he is not standing up for himself.

Ask him an open-ended question: "What goes through your mind when your friend ignores you in the car?" Your son may give you the brush-off. Fourteen-year-old boys don't always find it easy to express difficult emotions. If so, you can say, "Well, his behavior really bothers me. You are nice to all your friends, and I want people to be nice to you, too." Offer him the option of terminating this carpool situation now. Otherwise stick it out until summer break.

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