When it comes to children and their besties, teachers and professionals are beginning to ask a rather strange question: Does a child really need a best friend?
Well, if you've ever had a true best friend, your answer to the above question is probably a resounding YES! But a recent article in the NYT says choosing a best friend isn't always the best practice for kids, and many schools are starting to discourage these close friendships.
Huh? Are you kidding me? First, we banned touching, then fun bracelets, and now we're worried if two kids are too close of friends. Can we strip childhood of any more of its goodness? At some point, don't we just need to get out of the way and let kids be kids?
According to the NYT article:
"Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond -- the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground, and who head out the door together every day after school -- signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying."
School professionals seem to think that buddying up opens the doorway to bullying and cliques. Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, said, "We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends."
Growing up, I had lots of best friends forever, but most of them didn't stick. In fact, one best friendship in the sixth grade lasted for about four hours before we decided to call it quits. But I went on to enjoy many more best friendships, most of which I have my fondest memories of my youth -- even the ones that didn't end up lasting forever.
Sure, my besties and I always had a larger group of friends as well, which, to me, is more where the clique-forming and bullying occurred in small doses. It seems the group mentality is always the one that led to the bad behaviors, and rarely was it just my BFF and I ganging up on someone.
And besides, the banding together of friend groups still does nothing to encourage social inclusion. There will still be socially awkward kids who find they can't connect and who might be bullied. Friend groupings are not making anything easier for them.
“I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for a child to rely on one friend,” said Jay Jacobs, the camp’s director at Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, New York. “If something goes awry, it can be devastating. It also limits a child’s ability to explore other options in the world.”
I do suppose having a best friend in school, however, can close you off in a way. If you're already "bested up," you might miss other opportunities to meet new and also interesting people. I've realized this in my adult life where I've forced myself to attend events on my own in order to branch out more as a person. It's not easy, but the rewards have been nice. I have not only met new people with similar interests, but I've learned more about what propels and satisfies me in this life. Sure, there's definitely comfort in the familiar, but there can also be stagnancy for the self.
That said, there's still no room in this world for cutting off best friendships. I learned so much about relationships and myself and even family through my best friendships. There was no better way for me to learn about my own family than to see and spend time with other families intimately -- and how else will this happen if we end best friendships?
Not to mention that, over time, as my BFF friendships came to an end for a million different reasons, I learned so much about myself: what matters to me, what's important, what I need, and where my limits are.
Parents today simply go too far to try to save our kids from an ounce of pain. And we simply can't. Sorry, mamas, we can't. We don't learn or grow until we experience pain, fear, loss, and yes, a sorrowful good riddance from a best friend.
What do you think? Best friends -- a good thing or a social nuisance?
Image via djw1971/CafeMom