‘Best friends’ mean different things to different people. It can mean they are the person that you turn to as soon as something bad happens, or it can mean they are the person that you go out with and have loads of fun. I’m sure what I perceive to be a best friend is very different to what Charlie and the girls do.
The girls best friends are (sometimes!) each other but P1 loves her Panda and P2 her doggy. They have to take them out and about with them and always go to bed with them. They are massively attached to them and are never far away.
The girls don’t go to nursery yet but it is absolutely normal for a pre-school child not to have a best friend. At this age, kids are exploring who they are and what other people are like. They are trying lots of things out and this will mean having lots of different kinds of relationships with other children.
Once the girls start nursery, they will be more able to pick their own friends. Boys will tend to become friends with boys and girls with girls (although there are exceptions to this). This is because friendships are built around play and shared activities, and around the world, it has been shown that boys and girls play differently and with different things. Children who like cars or dolls will end up moving towards the garages or the prams, and there they will meet likeminded children there. Each time this happens, bonding increases and friendships become stronger.
Strong friendships often develop when a child is in a situation without their parent; this hasn’t happened yet but did when Charlie started nursery when he was 3. Usually, it is the parent who acts as a safety blanket for their child – someone that their child turns to if they’re feeling unsure, someone who can give reassurance and encouragement. If a parent isn’t there, children will turn to other children for some of this support. Friendships can develop when a child finds it comforting, distracting and fun to be with another child – the more they spend time together the more comfort they will derive from this friendship. Whether a friend becomes a best friend can be highly dependent on the parents though. If a child talks a lot about another child from nursery, parents can act on this and invite the friend over to play or have tea. However, if parents chose not to do this, there’s a good chance that the friendship may not be quite so cemented.
As every adult knows, even best friends can be annoying or bewildering. However, a best friend is someone who is there through thick and thin, and who doesn’t hold a grudge. The same is true for little children. They won’t always get on with their best friends, and in fact may squabble with them quite a bit. However, their connection means that they make up easily and are quick to forget what made them cross. Children can also rehearse how to make up with friends by playing with dolls or figures such as the VTech Toot-Toot friends which my girls love. They are able pretend that the Toot-Toot friends have had an argument before helping them to make up. Imaginary play like this helps kids build up their confidence in making and keeping friends.
It is unlikely that the girls at pre-school age will have the same best friend for ever. As a parent, I’m sure I will see them through the ups and downs of different friendships as I have with Charlie.
As a parent as much as you can, take your child’s lead in who they like and don’t like so that your child builds up their own skills in picking and making friends. If your child doesn’t have many friends, let alone a best friend, try hard not to pressure on them. Children develop at very different rates and have their own way of doing things. Learn about your own child and use that knowledge to guide them, when needed, through the friendship process.
Angharad Rudkin has teamed up with VTech to support the launch of its new fun and interactive range, Toot-Toot Friends. For more information please visit www.vtech.co.uk
Disclosure – this post was written in collaboration with VTech