September 7, 2017 was Britain’s Prince George’s first day of school at the Thomas’s Battersea private kindergarten school in London.
Jadie Troy-Pryde reports for Marie Claire, September 11, 2017, that “there’s actually a rule at Thomas’s that discourages any of the children from having a BFF” (best friend forever).
Jane Moore, a panelist on the TV talk show Loose Women, lives near the school and many of her friends have children in the school. Moore said on Loose Women that students are encouraged to be friendly with all of their classmates, and not to pick a favorite friend. The school’s aim is to make every child feel included, and this also extends to birthday parties. Moore said:
“There are signs everywhere saying ‘be kind’ – that’s the ethos of the school. They don’t encourage you to have best friends. There’s a policy that if your child is having a party – unless every child is invited – you don’t give out the invites in class. I think it is quite a good thing as you don’t feel excluded.”
Reporting for Business Insider on Sept. 20, 2017, Chris Weller writes that it’s not just Thomas’s Battersea that bans best friends. Schools across South West London, Kingston, and Surrey have also taken up the practice.
The trend of banning best friends has been growing for several years, and is spreading beyond European borders to the United States and Canada, where teachers in big schools shuffle friendships around to expose kids to a range of peers.
School officials and some psychologists argue that children become more well-adjusted when they have larger friend groups and can avoid negative feelings associated with feeling left out. It is claimed that best friends, with their tight bonds and inside jokes, throw a wrench into that open environment. Christine Laycob, M.S., director of counseling at Mary Institute in St. Louis, Missouri, told the New York Times: “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.”
Critics, however, say the no-best-friends policy robs kids of the chance to form valuable coping skills because grappling with mild social exclusion when they’re young will help them to become more capable, resilient adults.
In fact, a wealth of research indicates best friends create value for people throughout their lives:
- One study recently published in Child Development found that people with childhood best friends enjoyed better mental health well into adulthood. The study’s lead’s author, University of Virginia doctoral student Rachel Narr told New York Magazine: “We weren’t surprised that better adolescent close friendships turned out to be important, but we were surprised by just how important they turned out to be into adulthood.”
- Narr’s study also found kids with broader friend groups tended to grow up with higher rates of social anxiety than kids with smaller numbers of closer friends.
- Although anti-best-friend policies may help kids in the short-term, research suggests the strong connections found among best friends could be vital for mental health in a world where adolescents are lonelier than ever.
I’ve had a best friend in every period of my life, from the time I was in kindergarten, and I cannot imagine life without them. If I had a kid in school, if that school bans best friends, I will simply remove my child from that school.