Friendship Coaches? For Kids? For Real?
Filed under: Opinions
No more best friends! Get them out of your kid's life now! Hurry!
That's what a new cadre of crazy, creepy child psychologists is recommending for our children's emotional health. So, at summer camps, they're separating the kids who finally find their kindred spirits. At schools, they're breaking up the kids who look forward to eating lunch together. And if you want to throw up your own lunch, readers, get a load of the new profession that's springing up: "Friendship coaches," to teach kids how to be friends the RIGHT WAY.
That way seems to be a Stepford-like smile for any and every classmate, with absolutely no special someone to hide in the tree with, or talk to about pesky little brothers or lean on when the folks say they're splitting up.
Goodbye, secret sharing. Hello, status update.
"Parents sometimes say, 'Johnny needs that one special friend.' We say he doesn't need a best friend," Christine Laycob, the director of counseling at a couple of private schools in St. Louis, Missouri told The New York Times. "We try to ... get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive."
"Possessive" being about the grimmest possible way to describe what a lot of us consider the greatest part of childhood -- and adulthood: having a friend to count on. As my friend Leslie puts it about her own three best friends: "We've been there through dating, boyfriends, weddings, babies, heartbreak, deaths, you name it." Her friends are a godsend. And whenever her husband doesn't understand her, "I go to my girls for support. It makes me a better wife and mother."
Which is the whole point: Friendship makes us better, not worse. But like everything worthwhile in life, it is not always perfect. And now the professional fretters have decided kids can't handle a friend who turns on them (I had two of those!), or the pain of being rejected by a pair of friends who don't want a third wheel. I dealt with that, too! I cried. I raged. I used a lot of exclamation points in my diary! What I did not do was end up emotionally crippled for life!!
These "Friendship Coaches" buy into the current belief that kids can't handle any adversity. Kid loses a soccer game? Give 'em a trophy anyway. Kid's friend says, "You're not my friend anymore?" Send in the grief counselors with a five-part friendship plan.
Except ... our kids don't need that. Never did. They need us to hug them when they're sad, and maybe give them a bowl of ice cream. But they need to make -- and remake -- their friendships on their own. It's not so hard: A friend is someone who likes you.
Not someone the Friendship Coach told you to like.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.