Teacher Perspective: Friendships in the Classroom
Written by: Heidi Hule
As adults, we know how essential it is to have friends in life. Kids, on the other hand, aren’t thinking so far ahead. They enjoy having friends because they want someone to catch the ball they kick, or swing alongside them on the swing set, or share their deepest secrets. They like knowing someone has their back, whether it be to stand up for them in an argument, or just to say they really like the picture they’ve drawn.
Often, teachers pay close attention to friendships in the classroom. We do this for a variety of reasons, all of which are for your child’s well-being.
We watch to see if your child is making friends, or has trouble forging those bonds. We observe how they interact with their friends, how they treat them, and how they let themselves be treated. We pay attention to the strength of the friendship—how close are the children? Are they inseparable? Does their friendship exclude making other friends? Can one friend “survive” when the other is not around?
Friendships can tell us volumes about your child—their personality, their ability to adapt themselves and be flexible, and their level of compassion for others, just to name a few.
It can be tricky for children, at any age, to manage the strong relationship it takes to have a best friend. Ideally, their BFF would be their “first choice”—the person they would choose to hang out with over all others. But also ideally, they would have other friends they could enjoy as well. They would be fully-functioning in the company of others, or even alone. They would not be “lost” without their bestie.
Another issue that we watch for in friendships is the one of comparing themselves. Often times, when children become very close, there is a desire (open or hidden) to be “just like” their buddy. Depending on their buddy, this could be a healthy thing, or not. And depending on your child’s level of self-esteem, this could be an issue, or not.
Any child’s self-esteem should be based on their level of self-love and pride in their accomplishments, not based on how well they measure up to their friend. We see this time and time again in the classroom. A child may not be thriving, simply because they are comparing themselves to someone else. When they have a chance to be away from this friend, and are no longer able to use this comparison, they suddenly improve, and their self-esteem does too. Being apart actually allows them to find their own worth.
So the next time your child’s school wants to separate them from their best friend, take a moment to consider why. Ask for a detailed explanation, if you need one. Take a minute to think about it. Realize that, even if this might be hard for your own child, it may be in the best interests of someone else’s child.
Not to mention that, if this child is your child’s best friend, they may already feel a little like your own. Wouldn’t you want what’s best for them, just as you would for your own child?