“Best friend bans” — apparently, they’re a thing.
Educational psychologist Gaynor Sbuttoni said the policy has been used at schools in Kingston, South West London, and Surrey.
She added: “I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn’t have a best friend and that everyone should play together.
“They are doing it because they want to save the child the pain of splitting up from their best friend. But it is natural for some children to want a best friend. If they break up, they have to feel the pain because they’re learning to deal with it.”
Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, confirmed some schools were adopting best-friend bans.
He said: “I don’t think it is widespread but it is clearly happening. It seems bizarre.
“Bizarre” is putting it mildly. All I can think of are my first few years of elementary school, during which I read and re-read Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and longed to have a best friend, just as Betsy had Tacy. (By the way, if you have an elementary-school-age daughter and she doesn’t already own them, buy her those books!) For a few years, I wasn’t at all successful in my search. In the second grade, I cried when two close friends exchanged “Best Friends” necklaces with each other. I thought, if I wasn’t best friends with one of them, they were at least no closer to each other than I was to each of them. Another two of my friends had custom matching pillowcases that featured a printed picture of the two of them. At the tender age of seven, I was sure I’d be best-friendless for life. So, I learned to rely on myself and my very active imagination — and, lo and behold, the very next year, I did make a best friend. Years later, I met my fiancé at that friend’s wedding — but, in the intervening years, we each had other best friends. As an adult, I’ve had fruitful friendships and friendships that fade. It’s all just a part of life, right?
Children have made and lost friends for at least as long as children have had leisure time to play with one another — and probably before that. Those who learn to cope with imperfect friendships early in life are better equipped to handle the imperfect friendships that inevitably come later. (Besides, what friendship is perfect?) Does that mean I wish for every child to experience a falling out with a friend? Not necessarily — but it should be noted that fights often bring friends closer together in the end. Also, a life artificially sanitized of all friend-related disappointment sounds a little, well, artificially sanitized. And who wants that?