In their book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, the authors describe the importance of social groups for kids.
Groups are the highways of childhood. Our kids are swept along, going at the same speed as the majority of the traffic. If the other children in your child’s school are going fifty-five miles per hour, then your child can move among them at a safe speed. If the other students are traveling at seventy-five miles an hour, it will be difficult – and socially dangerous – for your child to go fifty-five. So he or she will speed up to stay alongside his peers and may not dare to pull over to the side of the road for a break, as it feels too dangerous when the traffic is moving that fast.They then describe how interacting with friends compares to being part of the group.
Friendship, by contract, resembles the side streets and back roads of childhood. Friends can go at their own pace; they can stop when they want to; they can get away from the speeding traffic. A girl who likes makeup and boys when she’s at school can stop and play with dolls with an old friend who reminds her of that recently abandoned pleasure. In the shelter of friendship, children can move at their own developmental pace.If your kids are struggling with friends, this book is a wonderful resource for understanding the intricacies of children’s friendships.