Kids shouldn’t have a best friend, say “some educators and other professionals,” reports the New York Times.
. . . 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.
“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “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.”
In the baby-boom era, kids found their own friends. Our mothers were busy with our younger siblings. We worked out our problems ourselves.
Now some summer camps have hired “friendship coaches” to make sure no child is excluded. They encourage children to have lots of playmates but no “best” friends.
Psychologists say strong friendships provide emotional support and security. And they “help children develop the skills for healthy adult relationships — everything from empathy, the ability to listen and console, to the process of arguing and making up.” Adults shouldn’t interfere with children’s “normal social pain,” says Michael Thompson, a psychologist who is co-author of the book Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.
“Friendship coaches” had better stay away from my daughters and their friends, rants Russell Arben Fox, who concedes it’s “pointless and silly to allow oneself to get worked up over another one the NYT’s patented create-controversy-and-concern-out-of-a-no-doubt-minute-slice-of-upper-middle-class-New-York-life Style section articles.” (Breaking up close friendships seems to be a private school and summer camp thing, if the Times is to be believed.)
Diane Auer Jones, still friends with Evie, the best friend she made at the age of five, thinks parents can handle friendships gone wrong without interference from teachers, counselors or friendship coaches.
My daughter had two best friends in middle school who became bitter enemies when one stole the other’s boyfriend. Allison learned a lot about being in the middle. (She is an honorary member of the Former Girlfriends of Arthur club.) Eventually, the friends turned enemies became friends again. When one moved to Kansas with her husband, the other followed with her husband. They live a few blocks away from each other.
I’m trying to persuade my best friend from high school to go to our 40th reunion in October.