Girls and friendships: it’s a minefield…
I’ve always encouraged my daughters to have a wide and varied circle of friends. I know from experience that being attached to just one friend at a young age isn’t a good idea. However, despite my best efforts all three have at various points had a ‘best friend’ or ‘BFF’ (I absolutely HATE that term!).
Three: not always the magic number
Sofia – my eldest – had a large group of friends for most of reception class, but then started to really gravitate to just one person. They were very close and Sofia talked about her constantly. Things changed when the classes were mixed up and she made a new very good friend, which I was really pleased about. However, this wasn’t without problems as Sofia’s two friends didn’t get on with each other so she was always torn and could never play with both at the same time.
‘Losing’ a best friend
Then a new friendship issue arrived in year two… Sofia’s ‘best friend’ got very close to another girl. The two girls played together and, from what my daughter said, excluded all their other friends. They weren’t mean or cruel, they just wanted to do the same activities at break times so went off together. My daughter had many a sleepless night and tears over it despite having other friends that she could (and did) play with.
I took it very seriously as it completely brought back memories of similar issues I’d had at school. I didn’t speak to the girl’s mum about it (as Sofia had asked) as there was no malice and you can’t force someone to play with someone else. I just reiterated that she should build her other friendships and not chase after people who were not going to include her. Thankfully it resolved itself, but I don’t think these episodes should be taken lightly. These are very real problems at that age and it feels like the centre of their world. Sofia now has a great group of very close friends plus a wider circle of friends that she plays with regularly but not as frequently.
Friendship issues of my twins
History is now repeating itself with my six-year-old twins. They are in different classes (my choice), but still seem to have the same problems. They started out with lots of friends and when I asked who they’d played with at break time there was always a different list of names. Then it narrowed down. It would all be hunky-dory for a bit and then there’d be trouble in paradise: “She’s my best friend, but now she has another friend and won’t let me play with them,”… “X said if I don’t do [insert minor misdemeanour]she won’t be my best friend,”… “X says she doesn’t want to be my best friend any more,”… “X always wants to sit next to Y now and not me.”
How the school’s policy has helped
At our local infant school they mix the classes up each year. Although it initially may seem a bit harsh it is very well managed and they speak to each child to ensure that at least two of their closer friends end up in the same class. It’s a great way to get them to add to their friendship groups and helps nip cliques in the bud.
My main friendship advice would be…
- Keep encouraging your child to play with other children and not have one ‘best friend’
- Don’t out and out dismiss friendships
- Steer them away from friendships that seem troublesome (but again don’t dismiss these friendships as this doesn’t help!). By troublesome I mean when they whinge/complain about the person lots but they’re still their ‘best friend’
- Get your child to enrol in different school clubs so they mix with different children
- Take their concerns seriously and talk them through