Unhealthy Teen Friendships


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If you’re the parent of a teenager, you should be fairly experienced at helping your child learn to navigate the sometimes petty, other times amusing, but mostly wonderful waters of friendship. But what is your role when a friendship takes an unhealthy turn? And how do you help your teen learn when to save — or end — a friendship?

The most important consideration is to recognize that this is your child’s friendship, and it really has nothing to do with you as a parent, according to Kate Paquin, a therapist, family coach and owner of Apex-based A Family Coach.

“Parents can’t make their issues the kid’s issues,” she says. There may be something happening that you think is mean or inappropriate, but your child may perceive it differently. If your child doesn’t seem to be affected by it, then “let it go,” Paquin advises.

That said, there are some challenging friendship situations you may encounter with your child over the course of his or her preteen and teenage years. Here’s how to identify them and know what your role should be.

Potentially Harmful

As a parent, you’re likely able to detect potentially unhealthy friendships for your child because you have more wisdom and experience under your belt. In such cases, Paquin advises handling the situation much like you would have when your child was a toddler: by using redirection. Encourage your child to spend more time with other friends and to find other interests, all while helping to build your child’s confidence as much as possible.

Clearly Unhealthy

The second type of situation that can be difficult for teens and those who love them is when a friendship becomes truly unhealthy. Susan Orenstein, licensed psychologist and founder of Orenstein Solutions in Cary, says unhealthy friendships occur when “people don’t protect each other, they throw each other under the bus. They might belittle each other a lot or gossip about each other. It feels like a ‘one up’ relationship, and they are really putting the other person down or taking advantage of the other person.”

Paquin says if you observe that your child is in a friendship like this — and seems willing to remain in it — ask your child about something specific you’ve noticed. For example, “Hey, I heard Suzy say how stupid you are several times in that conversation. What do you think about that?” If your child says, “Oh, she’s like that all the time; I just ignore her,” then Paquin assures parents, “that’s a confident kid and there’s no need to worry.”

If your child says it does bother him, but he doesn’t know what to do about it, then both experts agree that this is the perfect opportunity to talk your child about possible ways to handle the situation, none of which should include you becoming directly involved in it — or saying that your child can’t be friends with that person.

“It gives you an opportunity to kind of explore with them how they are handling it, and if there are other ways they want to handle it because they deserve respect,” Orenstein says. “If parents step in too early, it’s kind of taking away the kid’s chance of figuring things out on their own.” Both experts say it’s a good idea to suggest possible approaches your child might take, but ultimately your child has to decide to speak up for himself — or not.

“It gives the opportunity for the kids to say ‘cut that out,’ and to learn how to set limits and boundaries and to assert themselves,” Paquin says. “Or, if they don’t want to stand up for themselves, (they learn) to be able to make that choice and be able to understand the pros and cons of that.” Paquin agrees that it’s important for parents to teach these skills to a child because “this isn’t the last time they’re going to have that person or that type of person in their life.”

Accepting the Loss

Despite your child’s best efforts, there will likely be times when trying to address the situation appropriately won’t work.

“My middle school-aged daughter was in a close friendship with a girl who became extremely competitive with her. She wanted to be smarter, more athletic and prettier than my daughter,” says Caroline*, a mom in Holly Springs. “I encouraged her to speak up about how her friend’s behavior was making her feel, which she says she tried to do in a diplomatic way, but her friend’s competitive attitude continued. It got to the point where she dreaded being around this girl.”

Paquin points out that just because a friendship is competitive doesn’t mean it’s necessarily unhealthy, but if the child has tried to talk to her friend and nothing changes, it’s OK for a parent to help the child determine whether she wants to stay in that friendship.

“There are times where friendships run their course, and that’s okay,” Paquin says.

Breaking the News

If your child decides it’s time to break up with her friend, Orenstein advises leaving it up to her to decide whether she can tell the person. Your child might say, “I’m not going to be able to hang out with you as much anymore,” or simply start disengaging. Orenstein says either approach is perfectly acceptable, as long as it’s the child’s decision and not the parent’s.

Both Orenstein and Paquin agree that the only time a parent should directly get involved in a child’s friendship is if it becomes truly toxic. These are friendships that involve illegal activity and increase the chance that your child could get physically hurt, or that target your child in a very cruel, consistent and deliberate way.

Otherwise, our experts say to parents: Stay out of the breakup. You should, however, be available to talk and provide emotional support as your child works his way through the situation. The result? A well-adjusted teen who is able to decide for herself which friendships are worth keeping, and which ones are worth letting go.


*This name has been changed to protect the source’s identity.

Robyn Kinsey Mooring is a Durham-based writer and the mother of two boys.

 

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November 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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RJR hosts the Sirens from Savannah, Georgia, for a sanctioned junior bout, followed by an adult scrimmage. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Allstar bout begins at 10...

Cost: $7 at the door. Free for kids 3 and younger

Where:
United Skates of America
2901 Trawick Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: RJR
Telephone: 919-438-6066
Contact Name: Maureen Fennell
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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The Durham Art Walk Holiday Market is a festive fine arts and crafts event that kicks off the holiday season in downtown Durham. The Holiday Market invites art lovers of all ages to experience...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2720
Contact Name: Margaret DeMott
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Join NC State Parks, Recreation and Tourism students and discover how the world around you transitions from fall to winter. From meeting a live snake to creating a fall craft, participants will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Visit the display table to learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take home. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Join harpist extraordinaire Laura Byrne as she and several of her students, Kate Twiss (8th grade) and Jocelyn Bowns (10th grade), serenade audiences with beautiful...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sarah P. Duke Gardens - Kirby Horton Hall
420 Anderson St
Durham, NC  27708
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Sponsor: Mallarme Chamber Players
Telephone: 919-560-2788
Contact Name: Suzanne Rousso
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Walk back in time with a park naturalist to learn about the original Americans. Discover edible and medicinal plants. Play games like Native American children and make a fun craft. All ages with...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. Choose course #117109.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Enjoy food, inflatables, games and prizes (for adults and kids), a silent auction and a haunted house.  Cost: $5 ($3 for kids 6 and younger) Concessions and the haunted house...

Cost: $5 ($3 for kids 6 and younger)

Where:
The School for Creative Studies
5001 Red Mill Road
Durham, NC  27704
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Sponsor: The School for Creative Studies PTSA
Telephone: 919-560-3535
Contact Name: School for Creative Studies PTSA
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The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle presents a concert featuring UNC’s Carolina Choir. Concert highlights include Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard, Nino Rota’s Bassoon...

Cost: $30/adult, free for children

Where:
Carolina Theatre of Durham
309 W. Morgan St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Search for owls, salamanders and more. Equipment provided. Ages 10-13. Register online. Choose course #117111.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Young adults with developmental disabilities enjoy a book club featuring "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."  The group meets most Sundays at 4:45 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

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Logs provide great habitat for many animals. Join us as we read Wendy Pfeffer's A Log's Life, explore a real log and create a log craft to take home. For ages 1-6 with accompanying adult. Meet at...

Cost: $4 per child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Children with special needs make gyros, a popular pita wrap. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #116723.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Learn Sarah Hale's story and make fun Thanksgiving-themed crafts. All ages with adult. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Ages 11 and older with special needs learn basic outdoor survival skills. Register online. Choose course #116958.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

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See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Learn about the first Thanksgiving. Play 17th-century games, learn to talk like a pilgrim and create a first Thanksgiving food collage to take home. Ages 7 and older. Registration required.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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A playful elf, sent by Santa to confirm the naughty and nice list, stumbles upon the best place to find holiday cheer—the North Carolina Symphony! This family fun concert includes music from...

Cost: $28/person

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Take part in a 5K Thanksgiving morning. Proceeds benefit the Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs. Register online. 

Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
, NC  27587


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Competitive or Recreational 5K at Garner's White Deer Park Thanksgiving morning.  1 Mile option also available Register at https://fsseries.com/event/turkey-day-5k/register/

Cost: $20 - $30

Where:
White Deer Park
2400 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: TeddyRox Foundation
Telephone: 919-608-5658
Contact Name: Nancy Cawthon
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

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Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
Website »

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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Bring the family out for a fall wagon ride along the back roads of the park to enjoy the fall colors and the beauty of Harris Lake County Park.  Staff will interpret the natural and historical...

Cost: $1 per person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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The original television classic comes to life! The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
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This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
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Gather the family together for this fun-filled, heartwarming spectacular featuring seasonal favorites plus a sing-a-long, falling snow, and a chorus line of dancing Santas. Visit Santa...

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Perch Studios
106 S. Greensboro St.
Suite E
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: Perch Coworking
Telephone: 919 260 5313
Contact Name: Betsey Elbogen

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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
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Cost: $40 child+adult or $20/child $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
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Cost: $13.50/person

Where:
Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill , NC  27516
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Sponsor: Spring Haven Farm
Telephone: 919.407.1806
Contact Name: Andrew Crihfield
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Cost: $35 child and adult pair, or $15/child and $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 888-587-9530
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
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Cost: $35-$65

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Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Cost: $20/person

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The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
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Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown     
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
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