We found out that next year my son will be going into a different class to his two best friends. The two friends that have been by his side since he started school. As a parent, your heart aches when your child comes home and tells you they don’t feel like they have any friends at school. And when your child is separated from their close-knit friendship group during the class placement process, a sense of annoyance and frustration begins to well up inside you.
Do I go to the school and complain to the teacher?
Do I demand that my child be moved to the class with their friends?
Do I email the principal and make them aware of the travesty that has been committed in the name of education?
Do I tell my child to get over it?
Do I regale them with stories about the times we felt we had no friends at school?
Actually no – none of the above responses is ideal.
Let me tell you, from a teacher’s perspective, about why your child may have been placed in a class away from their friendship group.
1) Your child may be a delightful student, but they are easily distracted by their group of friends and are missing out on learning opportunities because they are too busy socialising. They may be moved into a class with a group of children who will be less distracting and allow your child to flourish educationally.
2) Your child may be a gentle, kind child. However, their friendship group is smothering your child and not allowing them to exert their independence and make decisions for themselves. Placing your child in another class will allow your child the freedom to make their own decisions and form new friendships without pressure from their current friends.
3) The teacher your child has been placed with has a personality and teaching style that will really suit your child, but not their current friendship group. The school staff, in their wisdom, may have decided to place greater importance on who is teaching your child rather than keeping friends together.
4) Your child may be becoming too reliant on just one or two friends and is not developing their ability to work and socialise with a variety of children. By separating your child from their friends at this stage, they will learn valuable skills about making new friends and working with a variety of people. Your child will not learn these skills if they are left with their ‘old friends’ indefinitely.
5) Your child may have specific learning needs that are similar to another child in the year level. By placing children with similar needs together in one class, school resources can be pooled together and allocated to ensure that your child, and the child with similar needs, get the maximum support possible. However, this may mean that there are not enough places in the class to accommodate your child's friends.
6) Your child may have leadership skills, just like their best friend does. However, by keeping the friends together, neither child may have the chance to truly lead their classmates. By separating the friends, both children will have the chance to be leaders in their class without stepping on the toes of the other.
No matter why your child has found themselves in a class away from their friends – it’s gonna hurt. It may be a cloud that will hang over their head for the summer holidays. It will take time to ‘get over it’. So what do we, as parents, do to support our child through this?
1) Acknowledge to your child that being separated from a close friend is really hard.
2) Encourage them to devise ways that they can catch up with their friends at recess and lunch in the new school year.
3) Organise playdates after school and during the holidays with their old friends and remind your child that these playdates can keep happening all through the year even though they are in separate classes.
4) Ask your child (or your child’s teacher) about who else is in your child’s new class. If you have access to a school directory, you could invite some of the children in your child’s new class to come over for a playdate. In one situation, I emailed the school admissions officer and asked them to email a new family on my behalf, giving them my email address and phone number so that I could arrange a playdate with our kids so that they could get to know each other before school started.
5) Arrange a birthday party or ‘Back to school’ party very early in the new school year and invite all the boys/girls/kids in the class over to your home or meet at a local playground. This really helps to create a sense of inclusiveness within a class group as no one is excluded from the party.
6) Tell your child’s new class teacher that your child feels separated from their friends. Ask the teacher to just encourage your child to make sure they head out to recess and lunch with a friend so that they have someone to play with.
We all know that being separated from good friends is hard and disappointing. The feeling of being left out and isolated is difficult. But persevere with your child, do what you can to support them in nurturing new friendships. And remember, school staff are there to help your child. If your child is really struggling with being away from their friends, let the school know so that they can keep an eye on the situation for you