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BFFs and Classroom Friendships - What can you do?

Miranda is a Primary Supply Teacher working in schools through Protocol Education in Manchester. Today she tackles the subject of BBFs and whether children need guidance when it comes to classroom friendships. 

Supporting children through the ups and downs of BFF's.

According to The Guardian, the head of a school in South London has recommended that children be encouraged to make a network of good friends instead of relying on one BFF or best friend. This is supposed to be a healthier and more socially useful scenario which gives children more opportunities for social cohesion and (presumably) less chance of being dumped and then having no friends.

The BFF thing is a tricky one. Children, mostly girls (I recognise this from my own experiences at school and those of my step-daughter, currently in Year 1) naturally seem to pair up. We adults encourage this in school. We pair children up for activities; ‘find a partner for the walk/trip/line into assembly,’ we cry.

Children find these friendships hard and complicated. They complain to the teacher that their BFF is stifling (won’t let them play with other people), is socially miserly and vengeful (has uninvited them to their birthday party as payback for misdemeanour unknown), is inflexible (will not take the subservient pretend role of little sister/baby/dog), is deliberately winding them up (eating crisps in a rude kind of way).

In other words the BFF cannot be moulded into the kind of person the child wants them to be, no matter how many times they snitch to the teacher about  it. The BFF wilfully and terribly remains an individual who has a certain hold over you.

How is this not good training for the future? For better or for worse most of us will end up in monogamous relationships where the horrid truth is that the ‘other half’ cannot become the person we want them to be no matter how many times we refuse to share our crisps. So we must adapt to this minor tragedy or move on and adapt to someone else; who might be even less malleable.

For adult couples there is a whole support industry that runs alongside the relationship business. As  teachers, I think we owe it to our children to give a similarly firm but objective attention to their nascent relationship problems. This can, like marriage guidance (and I speak entirely theoretically here, of course) seem wearying and repetitive with the support-giver often operating with the secret believe that the couple in ‘counselling’ would be better off severing their ties altogether.

Abbie, how did you feel when Scarlet walked with Emily to swimming? Sarah how did you feel when Cliff had the affair with his intern? Okay, so then how did you feel Cliff when Sarah had an affair with her brother’s friend? Jayden say ‘sorry I kicked you in the head’ to Ben. Ben say ‘sorry I tried to garrotte you with my tie’ to Jayden. Cliff say sorry I cheated, Sarah say sorry I cheated on you back

The notion that schools should encourage children to create a network of a number of friends is fantastic in theory. We all need pals - especially when we split up with our other half. I was so lonely when I split with JD (First year Juniors/Year 3) that I played British Bulldog by myself and ripped my own jumper on a tree. My mum came into school to complain about bullying and the teacher said, ‘She plays on her own now she’s broken up with JD.’ My mum looked quite distraught. It amazed me even at the time that the teacher had noticed but had not tried to support me in getting back together with JD or in joining any new friendship groups.  

I think we teachers need to try to offer our children the best of our wisdom, guidance and kindness in the relationship business, while understanding that it may be the way of the world that children, just like their adult role models, will try to forge their way by forming a single powerful attachment rather than a number of smaller safer relationships.

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Tags: Miranda, Supply Teacher, Primary, Friendships, BFFs, Teach in Manchester, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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