What is the difference between children’s friendships and adults?

A few weeks ago I was asked a genuine question by one of my very enthusiastic and vocal 4 year old students.  She had been closely observing my interactions with a co-worker and asked ” Are you two best friends?” You would not think that such a simple question would generate so much overthinking before replying…

Given that we are colleagues we have become good friends due to the very nature of the work we do, but I wanted to reply with an honest answer that did not take away anything from either of the two parties involved.

It got me thinking how children imagine and perceive the interactions of those people around them, and how important it is to be genuine and authentic with the queries children have.

The only way to have a friend is to be one - Ralph Waldo Emerson.jpg

However, it also got me thinking about the differences between children’s and adults friendships in general. Yes there are some obvious differences, but apart from that why should they be considered this way?

I suppose there is a level of formality that may exist in professional work relationships to those of many years and by deliberate choice that is opposite to the freedom children seem to have when learning who they have a connection with.

But isn’t the same true for children whose teachers may expect them to be friends with everyone? I absolutely see the sense in this way of thinking but with caution as it is a bit of an unfair standard to set that we all get along famously. Perhaps it is more realistic to consider granting a healthy level of respect for others knowing that not every one will last outside the year or group level.

It is okay to be able to draw a line to know that there are people who we have instant  connections with and then there are those who we don’t and may never have.

Instead of having expectations that might be too hard to achieve and apply undue pressure onto others, we can encourage children to be friends with themselves first.

This can have tremendous emotional benefits to all parties involved. Much of the conflict that is generated by children getting to know each other is to due in part to knowing who they are as a player so that they can teach others how they ‘work’.

With this is mind then children can have a greater sense of freedom to enjoy interacting with a range of people who they choose to spend time with and decide whats sort of friendship they want to have.

I feel this is similar to how adults can also get most enjoyment and quality out of who they choose to spend their time with – helping them become much better grounded individuals who have a diverse range of friends from all parts of our lives.

I am glad I was prompted with this question to which I responded to with an easy smile and sense of warmth: “Yes we are friends who like to make each other smile and laugh!”

We can be  quick to forget the pain and tears that we may have endured through our own childhood navigating the social highways. What a special gift to help children empower themselves to make their own choices and to be fortunate to have their world filled with other people who make the world go around!

My hope is that the children in my care feel free to know that there are lots of friendships possible with the many people they will encounter along the way. Some may be life long friends, others passing, but all important in one way or another to help solidify that friendship is really no different whatever your age and stage of life.