Another Normal Part Of Childhood Is Under Fire In Our Schools

One of the most important lessons to be learned during childhood is the ability to form healthy relationships.  The foundation for learning what a healthy relationship is begins in the home with parents, siblings, and other family members reinforcing safety, security, and communication skills.

But as kids start school, developing friendships with other children become almost as important.  Learning how to interact with peers and build trust with others outside the family are vital life skills.

Learning to bond with peers individually and in groups are equally necessary skills for being a well-rounded individual, and both have unique benefits.  Why, then, are some school systems attempting to ban children from having one “best friend?”

U.S. News and World Report examined the rationale of some schools on this issue by one child psychologist:

That’s right. Some schools are attempting to ban the entire concept of children having best friends.  This, to me, seems like a Herculean task. The notion of choosing best friends is deeply embedded in our culture.

Certainly in life, we all benefit from having close friends and confidantes – those who really get us. On the other hand, there is something dreadfully exclusionary occurring when a middle schooler tells the girl sitting next to her that she is best friends with the girl sitting in front of them.

Many of you will suggest that our kids should toughen up and will become hardier if they learn to deal with the natural shifts in friendships that are inevitable. Perhaps, there is some truth to that. However, I am concerned about the bigger picture, which includes the pain associated with exclusion and the gentle comfort associated with inclusion.

Among children and even teens, best friends shift rapidly. These shifts lead to emotional distress and would be significantly less likely if our kids spoke of close or even good friends rather than best friends.

I am not, however, an advocate of encouraging kids to have huge groups of friends. What I would like to see instead is children having a smaller group of close friends. In fact, there is research suggesting that adolescents who have a small group of close friends fare better emotionally than those who are part of a larger social circle. Perhaps those who are part of a large group lack closeness and are socializing primarily with acquaintances.

Schools that are considering banning children from having best friends may be trying to prevent hurt feelings or exclusion, but the reality is that every child goes through these things at one time or another.  There is a fine line between protecting our children and sheltering them to the point that they have no ability to take care of themselves in social situations.

While schools seem to think that having a best friend is an outdated and harmful concept, other experts believe that having one friendship stronger than others is a good thing — and not mutually exclusive to forming healthy group relationships.

Live About discussed the benefits of having one close friend to trust and turn to:

You’ll Have a Genuine Relationship:  A best friend is someone whom you are closest to. You share a lot in common, have the same sense of humor, or share a similar outlook on life. One of the most positive things about this type of friendship is the “safety” of it. Quite simply, you are able to be yourself because your best friend accepts you just as you are. 

Best friend relationships are almost like a platonic marriage, with both people committed to making things work for the long haul.  The people involved respect and care for each other and help bring out the best in the other person. 

Arguments Are Easy to Move On From:  Any two people in a relationship are going to argue from time to time, but in a best friend situation the arguments are usually few and far between and easier to get over.

This is because the two friends work to resolve the argument with the objective of making their friendship better. They don’t try to “win,” but rather aim to understand the other person’s side of things.

Easy Companionship:  With a best friend, you always have someone to do things with. If you see an activity you’d like to do, you don’t have to wonder who you could invite because you know your bestie will probably want to go with you. Moreover, best friends can usually just hang out and have a good time. They don’t need to plan an involved event to be entertained.

While there are pros and cons to any relationship, the concept of banning best friends seems to give kids the idea that there is something wrong with wanting to spend a majority of their time with one person.

The fact is, there is always that one person most like you with whom you form a strong bond.  This is human nature, and also a rite of passage for kids.  Developing trust with one person, accepting their strengths and weaknesses, and learning to resolve differences in a long-lasting relationship are important character builders.

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Many children stay close with one particular friend throughout the school years and beyond, while other acquaintances come and go.  And a case can be made that having the ability to form a long-lasting relationship with one great friend as a child can pave the way for maintaining long-term adult relationships like marriage.

Obviously, if a child refuses to spend time with more than one person or their “best friend” is causing them to be secretive, withdrawn, or engage in poor choices, parents should step in.  But more often than not, having one close friend is a normal part of childhood.

But like many issues in which schools become involved, this should be a discussion for home.  More and more over the years, school administrations have been dictating how we should raise our own kids.  Public schools, especially, are adopting liberal, anti-family agendas and pushing parents out of our roles of authority with our kids.

Parents know their children best.  If your child has someone they consider their “best friend,” but they get along with other kids and do well in group social situations, there should really be no cause for concern.

What do you think of the concept of children having a “best friend?”  Do you think schools have the right to ban the idea, or do you believe they are taking “social inclusion” too far?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.