As school returns after the summer holidays, I'm sure it is not just me who hopes that my kids are heading into the year feeling happy and confident in their friendships.
Will friendships from last year have survived the holiday break? Will animosities have magically disappeared? Are in a class with friends who will help them enjoy their days (but not distract them from learning!)?
For those with kids starting school – whether primary school, high school or moving schools – these hopes are even more fervent.
At times like this, I find it heartening to remember that, throughout their school lives, children will have all sorts of friendships. Here are eight types of friendships:
1. 'Just because' friends
This is the type of relationship we automatically think about when thinking about friendship. 'Just because' friends are those that your child form simply because there is a mutual attraction. The friendship happens with seemingly no effort.
This group includes a child's 'best friend' but, though there is some evidence that having a best friend is helpful at creating resilience, having a number of 'just because' friends widens a child's social networks and softens the blow if one moves away or changes allegiances.
2. Nearby friends
These are friendships formed through geography – the kid who catches the same school bus or the next-door neighbour kids who are always up for a play. For some kids, there is nothing more exciting than a new kid moving into their street!
Living close to one another doesn't guarantee friendship but a shared trampoline or swimming pool can go a long way and, for parents, local friends makes for play dates that are easy on the practicalities.
3. Kids of your friends
You probably have memories from when you were a kid of your parents' friends' kids. I recall these were friends that we only saw once or twice a year but were consistent across my whole childhood and gave me a glimpse into lives that were different to mine. Now I am a parent, my kids have similar relationships with my friends' children.
My school-gate friendships also make a difference. I find it so much easier to arrange a play date with the kids of friends I have made through school (whether or not we adults are catching up too). The result is that my kids spend more time with these friends than their 'just because' friends.
4. Outside activity friends
Dance class buddies, soccer club team-mates, karate lesson classmates…and so on. Even though they might be together for less time than school-based friends, there is an automatic shared connection.
If both kids continue with the activity and it involves more intense experiences, like performance, competition or trips away, these friendships can end up being very tight knit and influential.
5. Good at the same things friends
These friendships are formed through a shared ability at school. It might be two kids who are together in an accelerated maths class. It might be a small group of kids who are more assistant than student during technology classes. It might be the kids who know they are both a cut above the rest on the soccer field at lunchtime.
These friendships might only exist within the focus of the shared ability but these friendships are nonetheless very valuable. This is especially so if the shared talent is one that is less common or popular.
6. In-school extra activity friends
Extra activities within school can see all sorts of kids paying in the school band together, versing each other in the chess club, or competing together in school sports. These activities bring together kids who might not naturally form a 'just because' friendship, but the time spent together can result in a strong friendship regardless.
I remember becoming friends, through the school band, with a girl who I otherwise would have been unlikely to have ever met, let alone enjoy shared challenges, laughter and, yes, the odd band camp.
7. Other year level friends
From formal buddy programs to multi-age sports or activities, friendships across year levels can be precious. In small schools, across-age friendships are more common. In my children's primary school – at around 140 students - it is not uncommon for Year 4 or 5 students feeling really sad as they farewell their Year 6 friends to high school.
As we all know, age becomes less meaningful once you leave school and move into the 'real world', so learning from an early age that you can be friends with people of any age is a great social skill to learn.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have cousins at all but, for those who do, cousins who also feel like friends are special people indeed. Even if you only see them rarely, having a genetic link seems to help with reconnecting quickly and fully.
I love seeing my kids with their cousins, doing shared performances and mucking in with each other and finding common ground, despite their different personalities.
Though we tend to think of 'just because' friends as the most important type of friend, your child will end up with all sorts of friends. As your children move into a new year of school, encourage them to learn from and appreciate all their types of friends.