For this blog, I am going to 'piggyback' on a discussion Ms Gallen, Head of the Lower Phase had with our younger students after noticing some inappropriate behaviours and perceptions around boys and girls being friends with each other. This blog is based on her email to parents and judging from the many positive emails she received back, this was something parents found really useful to have guidelines on. Of course, this discussion is not just for our younger students. It is something our children whatever their age, need support with.
The discussion was initiated because we had noticed a growing number of students being overly concerned about who had a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ , who ‘loves’ who, who is 'kissing' who, and a number of students teasing other students about having opposite gender friends. We wanted to make it clear to our students that it was perfectly 'ok' to have a friend of the opposite gender without any romantic connotations- which at primary school is not appropriate anyway.
- We all can have many different types of friends, older than us, younger than us, boys or girls
- It would be sad/boring if children/people only ever had friends of the same gender. Children and adults have friends of both genders all throughout their lives
- Having a friend of the opposite gender does not mean they are a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ in the same way that some grownups have people who they will spend time with or sometimes live with or marry
- Children in primary school are not grownups/adults and opposite gender friends are are just that -’friends’- and are great to have.
- We all have people in our lives who we love and many family members -mums, dads, aunts, siblings. It is ok to really like/love some of our friends too, girls or boys .
- We can hug friends but we do not ever need to kiss friends on the mouth as that is not appropriate.
- Teasing someone about having opposite gender friends is unkind and makes them feel uncomfortable/sad about their friendship - it is not ok to do this.
- Older siblings or well meaning adults sometimes tease children in this way eg. asking "do you have a boyfriend?"- quite a few children reported older siblings doing this, including here at school. We suggested that they could remind them that they are 5 years old and this person is their ‘friend’ or that they are just being ‘silly’.
It is important that as parents, we support our children in the friends they choose and do not, even as a joke, make them feel that opposite gender friends are anything but normal and certainly are socially acceptable. Here are two links for you to read....but both are of interest for teachers as well - especially as the first article has a nice section called "Tips for Bringing Boys and Girls Together" that is aimed at teachers and supports inclusion, contact, collaboration, and cooperation in a school setting - there are points for all age groups even though it's an early childhood article.
Supporting Positive Peer Relationships
Can Boys and Girl Be Friends?